There are a lot of things demanding your attention at the moment and the start of any course can feel overwhelming, however you can do a lot to make this transition easier, writes Nicky Lambert
Firstly welcome to the family – it’s exciting to greet new student nurses.
Congratulations on your success in getting a place at university, you are aware that the public place trust in us as nurses so remember it is our privilege and responsibility to live up to it. Our governing body is the Nursing, Midwifery Council (NMC) and they issue guidance on professional conduct and expectations, it is wise to read it before you dive headlong into freshers’ week.
Organisation doesn’t come easily for everyone but it’s vital to your success. Get yourself a diary. You‘ll be having lecturers and seminars all over the place and probably working irregular shift patterns. Wherever your learning is taking place you will be expected to be there on time, smiling. Get used to making a note of any important dates like ‘hand-ins’ for assignments, and check the time of any deadlines. I always put a reminder the week before submissions are due so that I don’t get caught out.
Find your course handbooks and read them. They are designed to answer all your questions and it’s important that you understand what is expected of you and how to contact people if you need help – it pays to learn the systems and who does what.
Check your e-footprint. You are a student, but a student aiming for a professional qualification. ‘Google’ yourself and see what comes up. Remember future employers, service users and their carers will be able to see how you are represented on the internet and there is NMC guidance on how to use social networking sites effectively.
You don’t need to stop using social media but be aware of potential pitfalls. Nurses are very present on the web, many set up professional Twitter and Facebook accounts so that they can connect to the wider health community. I use my account to listen to service users, get updates from my colleagues, keep informed about research and let others know of improvements in my area. Student Nursing Times (@StudentNT) has an online presence and runs student-specific twitchats every Friday at 1pm (#SNTtwitchat) as do groups like wenurses.co.uk. Your University may have useful links, as will your chosen field, so get involved in your nursing community and be a good ambassador.
Look for ‘helpers’ – search out the people around you who have a passion for nursing and learn from them. Make sure that you are aware of student support teams whether they are there to help you adjust emotionally or support you with your academic development (don’t worry referencing gets easier).
If you have learning needs like dyslexia, or health problems make sure you get support at the start of the course. Don’t wait and don’t be embarrassed.
You are at the start of a journey and you will grow so much as a person and a nurse over the next three years. Make sure you track your progress so that you can celebrate it. Some people make notes in reflective diaries; others write a letter to themselves about their hopes and goals and read them at the end of each year. However you remember this moment, make sure you do because it will help you keep on track when times are difficult and show you how much you have learned.
More than anything though - enjoy yourself.
Nicky Lambert is a lecturer in mental health nursing at University of Middlesex