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How to master your first year of nursing

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Get the balance right and you will look back on university as the best time of your life

I’m here to tell you what I wish someone had told me about each of the four main areas of a student nurse’s life – placements, academic work, student living and socialising.



Put together a little bag of essentials for your placement shifts so that everything’s in one place. This should include a water bottle, pens, mini calculator, mini pad of paper, stickers (if working with children), a good hand moisturiser and lip balm. Also don’t forget your trusty nurse’s fob watch!


Academic work

If you’ve not been in study-mode for a few years, the thought of going back to essays and exams may be the biggest worry for you. Even if you’ve come straight from A-levels the world of academic work and revision becomes challenging when you’re suddenly given complete control over your free time. It may be a good idea to use the first couple of weeks of your course to experiment with different ways of studying to find out what works best for you. You might find that working in the library gives you focus or that listening to music quietly may keep you alert (I recommend Ludovico Einaudi for some lovely background music).

Try out different ways of taking in your notes - writing messy lecture notes out neatly in a revision notepad works best for me (this is also where I’m in my element with highlighters and multicoloured pens) but you may find that typing your notes out suits you better.


Student living

Life as a student can be tough when your timetable feels a lot more full-on than your peers on other courses. So make your living arrangements as stress-free as possible by starting off with firm rules about keeping communal areas clean and tidy. Yes, this sounds boring and tedious but trust me – strong friendships are broken over dirty pans and you don’t want a living room that constantly looks like a bar after last orders!

One rule I found to be effective is marking the base of different plates so you know who owns which - it then becomes very clear who isn’t doing their washing up! And once someone starts washing up their plate they usually/hopefully wash up whatever else they’ve used while making pasta a la student.



Many people look back on university and say that it was the best time of their lives and I want you to be saying that at the end of your course too. This won’t be achieved if you spend all your time studying but it also won’t be the case if you’re out sipping 2-4-1 cocktails every night and constantly slipping behind with your studies. Buy yourself a big laminated wall calendar and have two different coloured pens – one for writing in all your planned study work and another for social activities. If you find one colour starts drastically dominating your calendar then you can identify and change this in advance.

Problems solved, crises averted and all that’s left is for you to get the very best out of your life as a student nurse – good luck!


Kate Lewis is in her second year studying Children’s nursing at City University London

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