I think most student nurses have heard of “year two blues”. However, I think it needs to be binned as a student nurse phrase, it suggests the other years are easier to bear.
I struggled the most in the first year, it was pretty awful in fact. I found it hard to make friends, fit into university life and find my place.
I was very lonely and had ongoing mental health issues I had not yet dealt with. I failed my first placement; I struggled with relationships I had extreme abandonment issues with the friends I had made; I was always tired and struggling financially; and at one point I was even suicidal. I had serious first-year blues.
I reached out to someone who supported me in getting help when I was ready. I had a counselor with the university, I’d been to my doctor and I opened up to a new friend who I felt I could trust.
By the latter half of the first year, I was on the up, being involved and engaged in university life by becoming a student academic lead and then with the RCN by becoming a student Information officer. I was so glad I had asked for help – I felt like I was on the path to being “fixed”.
“Fixed”, I realise now, is not the appropriate word. I felt like the only way was up but then the “year two blues” hit. The summer months of second year were incredibly intense and we had to be on top of our self-management and organisation skills to get through it.
Also, during the start of the year my nan had become very unwell and my grandfather needed support, so I spent a lot of my time helping them as well as trying to complete my university work and placement. I ended up having to defer my nursing practice exam as I was too exhausted and unprepared to sit. This meant that I would be studying for nine assessments over three months.
Then nan passed away, and not long after that I discovered I have borderline personality disorder. It was a lot to deal with, but with support from friends and lecturers I didn’t give up and passed all the assessments and placements.
Alongside my degree, I had to work as well to pay bills. Despite annual leave from uni, I never felt recharged for the next semester. So, the third year hit, and it didn’t take long for those blues to come back. The pressure of being a third year and the responsibility and pressure that came with it very quickly terrified me.
During placement I had a mental health episode; my mentor looked at me one morning and knew I wasn’t okay. I sobbed at her and it was for no reason; I felt awfully low and couldn’t stop crying or get myself out of it. She was very understanding and supportive, so I had a week off to get myself right. My university and placement both supported me and made sure I was safe.
I’ve now passed my last nursing practice exam, my penultimate assignment and placement, and have six months until we graduate as adult nurses.
A well-spent two-week break has helped me regain my focus for the final stretch and I’m actually looking forward to qualifying now. I also realise my mental health is not something that can be fixed, but something that can be managed, and I know with help I can get to the finish line and beyond.
I will be so proud to be a nurse, to see how far I have come and how I have battled to get here.