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'10 things I learnt in my first year as a student nurse'


As the end of her second year approaches, Hazel realises that she’s learnt far more than academic lessons during her course.

1. Some people stick with you

There are some people who you will never forget. Positive experiences can restore your faith and help you through the wobbles, whilst negative experiences keep you on the straight and narrow. Meeting people and connecting with them is what makes nursing so rewarding, just remember to be professional towards everyone!

2. See a toilet? Use that toilet!

Sometimes, especially when working out in the community, you can go hours without seeing another. Always use the toilet.

3. There is not much I won’t do for a freebie

A four hour workshop on ‘When Pressure Ulcers Go Bad’? No thanks. There’s a free pen? Fantastic, sign me up for the morning and afternoon sessions!

4. Wobbles come and wobbles go

“It takes guts to dust yourself off and check in again for the morning handover”

Everyone has wobbles. We can all feel we are not good enough, or smart enough, or strong enough. We can all be angry at the system: feel we aren’t valued, or that our service users are put at risk by someone else’s poor decisions.

At 3am, you might find yourself eating cheese on your kitchen floor, wondering why you sacrificed so much to work somewhere that people literally spit at you: I know I have.

What matters is the next step. It takes guts to dust yourself off and check in again for the morning handover. Ultimately, all we can do is keep going and trust that, as long as we are there, there is one more person working for the best interests of vulnerable people.

5. You can’t accept other people if you don’t accept yourself

I am not perfect but I do know: I try very hard. I say sorry when I am and I treat everyone as an individual. If I keep doing that, I know I can’t go far wrong.

6. You can’t look after other people if you don’t look after yourself

“Can I spend the last hour of my shift cleaning poo off a toilet wall then go home and eat chocolate mousse for dinner?”

Don’t be a martyr. Drink water, go to bed on time and always ask for help if you need it. Make time for the people you love and to do things you enjoy. It’s simple stuff but the basics are what makes the course and the job sustainable.

7. I am master of my own stomach

Can I spend the last hour of my shift cleaning poo off a toilet wall then go home and eat chocolate mousse for dinner? Yes, yes I can. On that note:

8. Not everyone likes talking about bodily fluids during meals…

                …but nurses do.

9. Basic anatomy, physiology and the fundamentals of mental health nursing

Token shout out for the taught material from the degree course!

10. There is nowhere else I would rather be

There are some shifts that no lecture or book can ever prepare you for. You will see people at their worst, and at their best.

You will see yourself at your worst and your best! Despite the wobbles, doubts and setbacks, I have never been happier.

I feel so lucky having this opportunity and every day is a privilege… albeit sometimes a very sticky one.


Hazel Nash is in her second year studying mental health nursing at Birmingham City University


Readers' comments (3)

  • Wow.. this is great. Thank you Hazel..may I use this material with my personal tutor group..I will acknowledge you of course.
    Some really good observations!

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  • Hi Hazel
    I welled up reading this. It is so good to share to encourage others.

    So much of the learning can be what not to do.
    Since qualifying i have written about my journey, which needs to be edited and hope to get published.

    Thank you. I will stop procrastinating and get

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  • Hazel Nash

    Hello both, I am so so sorry for the late reply!!

    Both of you have been so kind, thank you.
    Feel free to plunder anything you will find useful.
    Huge huge luck with everything, I hope I get a chance to one day read what you've written!

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