As my final year draws to a close I can now see the reality of nurse training has been completely different to how I pictured it would be at the commencement of my course in 2013.
My idealistic mindset at the start saw students sitting around old wooden tables in bars fervently discussing the nursing issues of the day, learning from one other and having good arguments and debates.
The reality was somewhat different - students sitting quietly on their own in the sterile library, burrowing around online, finding books and articles, hoarding this little gem and not sharing the fruits of their labours with others who were a mere 10 yards away furiously doing precisely the same thing.
And I want to know why.
“I really struggle to understand this attitude. Surely as student nurses an integral part of our learning is collaborative working and sharing information, no?”
On the first assignment in first year I asked a colleague of mine if she had any articles for the assignment we were working on. Her eyes darted, sweat fell from her brow. Her voice croaked as she ‘ummed’ and ‘arred’ about sharing the information. I heard her mumble “God, it took me ages to find that”, “plagiarism”, ”now everyone will use that” and finally “I will have to find another now”.
I really struggle to understand this attitude. Surely as student nurses an integral part of our learning is collaborative working and sharing information, no? The NMC (2015) code states nurses should ”respect the skills, expertise and contributions of colleagues […] maintain effective communication […] keep colleagues informed […] share information […] share your skills” and utilise ”discussion and informed debate”. It’s what our governing body wants us to do, but at the very start of our journey we are blocking it ourselves.
”From what I observed, this was common behaviour. She was not alone.”
So who, if anyone, was at fault? Was it the individual student for not sharing? From what I observed, this was common behaviour. She was not alone.
Was it the University promoting fear in students with the hazards of plagiarism? Did I understand far enough the difference between plagiarism and sharing information? Possibly not.
Did some students see getting better results as more important than helping another who may need it? This is surely the biggest paradox of all in an industry designed to care, help and nurture.
”This is surely the biggest paradox of all in an industry designed to care, help and nurture.”
At the beginning of my second year I decided to start my own learning group with other students - not necessarily my closest friends at that point but rather likeminded people. A collection of us from all of the nursing fields would study together and pool our resources as the days progressed.
Cries of ”ooh, this is a good one” and “email me that link” were commonplace around the table. At times we were disorganised, raucous and pedestrian on the work front. The table would be a hive of books, empty coffee cups, sweets, pens and highlighters. A culture was formed, one focused on helping one other, wiping our individual and collective tears and sharing resources. Someone stating they didn’t understand a piece of writing swiftly followed by a detailed explanation from a peer was a daily occurrence.
”Cries of ’ooh, this is a good one’ and ’email me that link’ were commonplace around the table.”
Of course it did not work for all students. Some people needed silence to read and space to work. They felt distracted by the noise and the questions. They dropped off and worked in their own way. But for others who learned well in groups it was a hugely positive experience, both academically and socially.
But what effect did this have on your grades, I hear you ask. Each member of the learning group gained grades that will result in them achieving a 1st or 2:1. There were no issues of plagiarism, the quality of all of the work improved throughout the course and we gained knowledge of our own learning styles.
So, why is it that we don’t all stand together in nursing? I really wish we would.
Gerard Jennings is a current final-year student nurse.