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Building a support network

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During your nursing course, the support from others in the same boat is invaluable.

Starting my course last year was daunting for many reasons, not least of which was being a mature student. Quitting my full time job caused major financial anxieties (still does!), and I was sure that being a decade older than the average student would mean I would struggle to meet like-minded people on the course.

As usual, I was wrong, and a year later I’ve forged the strongest of friendships with people much younger than me as well as those my age and older. I soon found that regardless of age, we were all like-minded, we were all dealing with the same worries, stresses and concerns, and most importantly we all had our ways of helping each other through.

I remember too, in the first few weeks, desperately not wanting to go on all the “fresher’s” organised nights out - I mean I was 18 once too and enjoyed it so much, but I’m a grown up now, right? Well, sort of…

I was lucky enough to gain a place on a course in my home town, so I already had all my friends and family around me and wasn’t sure I really needed any more. But a friend who had previously been through her nurse training urged me to make friends from the beginning, promising me that these people would keep me on my feet for the next three years. And so I organised a few evenings out myself - albeit ones that revolved more around glasses of wine than vodka shots and golf socks, but it did the trick and believe me I am glad that I made the effort. My support network outside of the course is the strongest it could be, but there are just some things that they can’t understand and solid relationships with people who are going through the same experiences really is priceless.

There were times when I’ve been on placement with some of the younger girls in our class, listening to them exclaim about the cost of toothpaste now that Mum and Dad don’t buy it for them, and I’ve felt a world away from their student experience. But after a tough day at work they are all there, supporting me as I hope I do them. Their different life experiences can bring a freshness to my thinking that I wouldn’t necessarily have got from my “non-nursey” friends outside of the course, and just the simple fact that they are going through the same thing as me and can understand is often enough.

So to all the mature new starters out there, don’t fret about not “fitting in” with other students, and don’t assume that your support network is enough. Relax, open your mind and make the effort now, you’ll be unbelievably thankful that you did a few months down the line.


Rachael Starkey is in her 2nd year studying Children’s nursing at Canterbury Christchurch university

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This is reassuring and acts as just the reminder I need.

    I tried to make it on a degree when I was 19 - but even at that tender age, I still struggled forging friendships with my peers as they had just flown the nest and I had been independent/estranged/homeless for 5 years prior and it felt as though we were living world apart with very little in common.

    Now with a further 10 years employment hx behind me, I'm in a much better place to make the most of any differences and establish some supportive connections, irrespective of age differences.

    Thanks for appeasing some underlying angst.

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