As I start my last week as a student nurse, I seem to have developed an overwhelming urge to share my so-called wisdom with fellow nursing students and those who may be considering applying for nursing training.
The two elements of training to be a nurse - academic and clinical - left my head in a permanent spin and my schedule looking like the doodle of a four year-old.
The academic work involved in a nursing degree is tough. Some will find this the greatest struggle of the course, whilst others may seem to breeze through essays and exams without a suggestion of revision or panic.
I strongly recommend utilising everything you can to ensure you learn through your academic work and understand the theories and concepts. Study groups, online forums, university tutors, learning support and your mentors in placement are all great resources to help you pass everything you need to, even if it does take a couple of goes.
”Then my mentor asked me to go empty all the catheters. I had never even seen a catheter, letalone emptied one”
Until I failed an exam, I really didn’t even think about what was available to me and once I started engaging the academic work become more manageable, even when I struggled with a topic.
And there’s placement. Clinical placement has been both the best and worst part of training. For the last placement of my first year I started on an incredibly busy surgical ward. I turned up and sat in a handover where I had no idea what anyone was talking about. Then my mentor asked me to go empty all the catheters. I had never even seen a catheter, letalone emptied one.
That was it; my confidence was shot.
I felt stupid and didn’t know how to talk to my mentor about what I needed to get out of the placement. My mind was made up; I hated the hospital and would never consider working there as a qualified nurse.
”My friends seemed to be learning more than me, enjoying placement and already securing job offers”
Placements pretty much continued like this for the next 18 months, as I thrived in community settings and was a timid wreck on the ward. My friends seemed to be learning more than me, enjoying placement and already securing job offers.
I was finding it difficult to apply the academic knowledge to the clinical setting and when I failed an exam I lost all hope in my prospects of becoming a nurse.
Then I started my third and final year. And something changed; it clicked. What was it? I’m not entirely sure I could tell you. Everything I’d learnt and seen over the past two years started to make sense.
Academically I could apply knowledge, such as acute care, to the patients I was caring for.
”I want you to believe me when I say you may cry and scream and forget why you even applied for nursing”
Clinically I understood how the ward worked, what my patients needed, what my mentors wanted to see from me, and what I was capable of.
I’ve spent all my final-year placements in the ward setting and am now able to manage a bay of patients - and on a good day even the ward.
I want you to believe me when I say you may cry and scream and forget why you even applied for nursing.
At times you may think qualification is impossible, as I did, but if you utilise resources and the people around you and believe in yourself, you really will have the most amazing experience and become a stronger person and nurse for coming out the other side.
Becoming a nurse is not an easy experience, physically or mentally, but it is a rewarding one. And just to show you I mean it, I have just accepted my first staff nurse position on a busy surgical ward.
Lex Seacombe is a current student nurse