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'Group work used to fill me with dread'

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Group work is a really important part of working effectively as a nurse. 

Working with a multi-disciplinary team means you sometimes have to collaborate with people you don’t know. In a clinical environment, I really enjoy working within a team and relish the opportunity to share and learn knowledge with others. But when it comes to university I used to feel quite the opposite. The very thought of a lecturer asking us to get into groups for presentations would fill me with fear. 

The concept of working with people outside of my normal friendship group didn’t really affect me; what worried me was having the confidence to put my ideas forward, and delegate tasks. I have had horrendous experiences of group work before beginning my training, where people within the group did not pull their weight, and I was left to do most of the work myself. 

I simply lacked the assertiveness to stand up for myself and suggest that group members start contributing to the task. I chose to stay quiet and avoid any confrontation, while allowing them to take credit. I look back at those times, and I am ashamed that I did not have the confidence to voice my concerns.

why should things be different just because I’m not in the clinical environment? 

I remember being in a lecture during the first week of my training; the topic was the importance of assertiveness within nursing. I vividly remember the lecturer telling us that a lack of assertiveness as a nurse will cost lives. I began to ask myself if I would choose to stay quiet if I knew that a doctor had made a drug error on a prescription; would I just go ahead and administer the medication, simply to avoid any awkwardness or confrontation? Of course I wouldn’t. I would speak out immediately. So I reasoned with myself, why should things be different just because I’m not in the clinical environment? 

It was daunting for me to put across my opinions and thoughts to others

The next time I worked as part of a group, I really pushed myself out on my comfort zone; I put my ideas across without being too forceful, listened to other member’s thoughts and respected their opinions. As a group, we delegated the tasks efficiently to ensure that everybody had contributed equally, and that the work was completed on time.  The actual presentation went well, and we received great feedback from the lecturer. Of course, it wasn’t easy for me to radically change my whole ethos towards group work, but I was proud of my contribution and performance. It was daunting for me to put across my opinions and thoughts to others, but I knew that doing so would vastly improve my confidence. 

Naturally, I still get very nervous about the actual presentation of the group work; public speaking is not my forte.  However, I am now halfway through my second year of training, and I can honestly say that I now enjoy group work tasks.  I have even had fun and made some new friends because of working with people outside of my normal friendship group.  The ability to work effectively with fellow classmates during group work is essential for academic, personal and professional development. 

My top tip to any student nurses out there struggling with group work is to really push yourself out of your comfort zone. Work with people you wouldn’t normally; in the clinical environment, we don’t get to choose who we work with, so it’s sometimes good to have that mentality at university too.  Put your ideas across tactfully, allowing the opportunity for the others to give their input. Using phrases like ‘what do you think?’ and ‘do you have any ideas about this?’ ensure that everyone in the group is given an opportunity to voice their opinions. 

Finally, try to relax, get to know other people, and enjoy it.  It is daunting at first, but I promise you it does get easier! 

Rachel Stephens is a I’m a second year student nurse studying adult branch nursing at Northumbria University.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I really dislike group work in lectures, however I enjoy working as part of a team when on placement. I find the two experiences utterly different.

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