Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

How to master the final year of your nursing course


Is it possible that entering third year is even more daunting than starting your nursing degree?

With the upcoming excitement for new starters embarking on their nursing careers, lots of attention is given to first years.

Second years can look back on the year just gone with the slightly superior knowledge that they have developed their practice and passed their exams, safe in the knowledge they have another two years before they have to worry about qualifying.

But by third year, most of us have forgotten what alcohol tastes like and our definition of a night out is staying in the library until 10 o’clock or nipping to the Co-op to top up our electricity key.

However I felt it was important to celebrate being third years in this year’s Nursing Times Freshers’ week. After all, final year students are as much (maybe even more) in need of support as the new enthusiastic members of the profession. Those whose rose tinted spectacles fell off long ago and who face the upcoming transition to staff nurse in the not too distant future.

I asked myself, if I could transport myself back a year (and I wouldn’t, because I couldn’t face doing third year all over again), what advice would I give the 33 year old me? Then it came to me that really, it’s all gone so quickly that there wouldn’t have been the time to stop and take in any advice anyway.

Believe me when I say, you will blink and it will be gone.

But if you do manage to take any advice on board, make sure it’s to get your dissertation started and do as much as possible by the end of the Christmas holiday. After that, the demands start coming in thick and fast.



Third year placements are all about taking the time you need to focus on producing high quality portfolio evidence, and resting on your days off. In fact making regular time for breaks is key to getting through the final stretch.

I felt that management placement came to us all when we felt we had nothing left to give; but soon realised that is a natural way to feel.

You will be surprised at your own resilience. This is when your real passion for nursing shows through (although I do remember briefly looking at job adverts for Tesco…).

Accountability faces the third year student and yes, it really is terrifying. But not so much as you may think. Make the most of your mentor, and take comfort in the knowledge that when you do qualify, your preceptorship is there to help you grow further.

In nursing, no matter how advanced we are, we are never on our own. There is always someone there to ask. And you have always been accountable, only this time it is to the Nursing and Midwifery Council rather than an educational institution.


Academic work

By third year you will find that tutors have an increased desire to help you as you are so nearly there. Make the most of this time, attend tutorials and complete the work you are so capable of.

Plan your time and plan for things going wrong as there is no room for error. 

If anything does go wrong, inform your uni as soon as possible and keep them informed. It can be useful should you require extenuating circumstances at a later date. No-one can help if they don’t know what’s going on.


Job hunting

Many people, myself included, suggest starting to look for jobs by Christmas. I know that sounds unbelievably close, but it’s all about practice and perfecting your applications. Open a profile and start learning how to search for jobs you may be interested in, this is a great habit to get into so you don’t miss your dream job when it does come up.

Find out about the recruitment process for the organisation you want to work in, particularly if this is where you’re based for your management placement. Take the opportunity to write a CV and personal statement while you’ve got tutors on hand to read through and offer advice.

Consider who you will put as referees, these will normally be a tutor from University and a mentor from management placement, but always check with the person you’re putting down to make sure they’re ok with it.

Go to open days and network, this can be daunting but its a great way to find people who may be useful and learn from them.


But the one thing that you must do is make the most of your cohort. It is the last time you will be together for a long time, and only you know the challenges that each other has faced.

Well done on getting this far, and be confident that this time next year, you will be signing your notes as a staff nurse! Oh and don’t worry about the lack of nights out, you can make up for that at the graduation ball.


Caroline Estrella is a newly qualified nurse, about to start a role on a surgical ward and an MA in Research Methods for Health


Readers' comments (2)

  • As i am about to start my final year this was very helpful. I will be jotting a few of your tips down.
    Thank you and good luck on you new journey.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Just started my final year , straight to placement. Thank you so much for the advice , it is reassuring hearing it from someone who has not long been in the same position I am in.
    All the best in your new role.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.