Student nurse Liz enthuses about the benefits of getting involved in extracurricular activities
As student nurses, we are always working towards the next exam or the next placement, and we never seem to find the time to put ourselves forward for extracurricular activities. There are so many challenges for us all. I have a family to look after, a two-hour drive to university and often long travel times to placements – not to mention trying to complete challenging assignments. However, last year I decided to put myself forward for something extracurricular. Low confidence, fear and time limits almost stopped me, but I decided that I needed to grab all opportunities with both hands, because I won’t get the chance to be a student learning disability nurse again.
So last year, I became the student rep for England on the Strengthening the Commitment Steering Group. I never thought I would be given such an opportunity, and I was excited but also terrified. The meetings I have attended so far have been in London at the Department of Health. Honestly, I have sometimes felt like an imposter, sitting with inspiring people who are genuinely making an enormous difference to many people’s lives. I feel that I still have so much to learn. However, I am passionate about making a difference. Eight years as a support worker before starting this training have taught me that there is a lot of brilliant care happening, but also many people still facing healthcare inequalities. We student nurses can and do make a difference, by being role models of safe care, reflecting and bringing innovative ideas.
It is scary sharing your thoughts and ideas with qualified or senior nurses - who we, as students, often idolise - but putting yourself out there and taking forward ideas that will benefit patients is important. Nurse mentors like to see students engage and take forward evidence-based ideas. Continuous improvement, learning and reflection is a hugely important part of nursing.
I have gained the confidence to use twitter and twitter chats as a learning and engagement platform. I have attended the RCN Congress as a voting delegate, as well as several conferences, including the inspiring Positive Choices conference. All the people running the conferences have been delighted to have students attend. These platforms encourage students to voice their views, ideas and opinions, and give them the chance to mix with a variety of professionals from all over the world. Personally, I have used these opportunities to learn from many nurses who work in a variety of environments, in a variety of roles, whom I would have been unlikely to meet if I hadn’t put myself out there. All the professionals I met were happy to answer questions, support my learning and help my development,whether this was by sharing research or offering me to shadow them for a day. We can learn something from everyone we meet.
So don’t be scared, put yourself out there! Take every opportunity that comes your way! We are only student nurses once.
Liz Bailey is currently in her second year studying learning disability nursing at the University of Wolverhampton