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'I have learnt many valuable lessons during my nursing degree'

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This was a challenging piece to write, but one that I’ve been planning for months. It’s about the lessons I really learnt from studying nursing, most of which weren’t on the curriculum.

To get the creative juices flowing, I asked my long-suffering partner what he’d learnt while I’ve been studying, and he raised two points: 

  • Nurses seem to have a very clear view of what nursing is, but that doesn’t seem to be shared by the rest of the population. Perhaps we all need to be doing a little more self-promotion. Bring on 2020, the World Health Organization’s Year of the Nurse and Midwife;
  • Nursing seems very uncomfortable in its role as an academic profession – grading of academic work is highly subjective, and evidence of compassion is almost always graded more highly than evidence of theoretical knowledge. He is an academic himself (not in a healthcare-related subject).

As for the lessons I have learnt, they have been some of the bitterest pills to swallow:

  • Negative role modelling is just as powerful and useful as positive role modelling… but that doesn’t mean it’s something to aspire to;
  • It’s OK to take a mental health day, but be conscious that these don’t happen in a vacuum. If you miss a meeting, for instance, consider the impact that it has on others, and that it might mean not getting recognition for work you’ve done;
  • Nurses run the world. Seriously, they keep every hospital in the world going, and support most of the people in the community going as well. I have never encountered someone who is ‘just a nurse’;
  • It’s always the team and never the work. Working in the area you find most captivating counts for very little if your team is unsupported and unsupportive;
  • Show sincere appreciation for others at every opportunity. It costs nothing, but makes people feel incredible, and will make you feel pretty good too;
  • What counts in life are the walks on the beach, the stories around the campfire and the coffees with friends. Career-defining moments are pretty excellent too, but happiness comes from not allowing those moments to define your life;
  • Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. You’re no use to anyone if you’re burnt out, uninspired and emotionally drained. Remember why you started and take time to reconnect with your values;
  • Someone else’s success is not your failure. Resenting someone else’s achievements benefits no one, and will only eat away at you. If you find you feel that way, it’s worth taking some time to find out why that is;
  • Finally, I’ve learnt that I don’t see myself as a nurse any longer, and I will be returning to university in September to study graduate medicine. This was a difficult decision to make, and took a lot of hard work to realise, but it is what I’ve wanted for myself since childhood. I have thrived in nursing, and have learnt many valuable lessons, beyond even what I’ve listed above. I have made fantastic friends and had amazing opportunities, but my journey doesn’t end here. 

Thank you to everyone who supported me over the past three years of study, and thanks to the Nursing Times for giving me this platform to share my story over the past year. I wish the incoming student editors and the graduating class of 2019 every success.

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