As a mum to three children and a full-time nursing student I am often asked how I manage to cope with my responsibilities.
Now I am nearing the end of my degree, I have time to reflect over the last three years and try to work out the answer to that question, and perhaps offer solutions to other students in the same situation as a result.
First and foremost, buy a slow cooker. My friends will laugh at this piece of advice because I raved about my slow cooker so much to them during my time on my course, but it really made a massive difference to us all. I was able to pop tea in the slow cooker before I left for university in the morning and voila - a delicious hot meal was waiting for us all when we got home. Whilst on placement, if I knew I was working a late shift I would put dinner in the slow cooker so my fiancée and children had a meal waiting for them when they got home. Plus, there are only so many times the kids would put up with their dad’s cooking.
My second piece of advice would be to plan everything. That sounds pretty obvious but you can find yourself getting caught up in assignments and forget about parents evening, P.E. kits or picking the children up from crèche - and yes, I actually did do the latter of these on one occasion. I bought a week-by-week family planner and put all the after school clubs, assignment due dates, parties etc. on the planner for all to see so if I was late home or working then my partner could see where the children were and what time they needed collecting at a quick glance. It also meant the kids were able to take responsibility for their own things and had no excuse for forgetting what day they had P.E. or when their homework was due in - although I’m sure they missed my nagging on the subject.
My third piece of advice would be to make sure you do something for yourself at least once a week. This can be difficult when you are on placement and juggling shifts and childcare but it is vital in order to maintain your sanity. My passion is singing so I joined a choir on a Friday evenings. This got me out of the house, gave me a break from assignments and allowed me to meet people who had nothing to do with nursing or university. I wasn’t able to attend every rehearsal but when I got there I could concentrate on me for a few hours, which was a welcome break from my roles as a mother and student nurse.
My final piece of advice would be to ensure you are surrounded with as many supportive people as possible. My mum helped out with childcare, which was a huge help, my children have been amazing and understood that I was not always able to make it to Sports Day or Harvest Festival and although I felt the natural guilt they never moaned even once. My university friends are an amazing bunch who understood all the stresses of assignments and placements and we met up regularly outside of university to have a meal or drinks so we could de-stress. Quite possibly the most supportive person has been my fiancée. At time he has had to fill two parental roles at once, had to listen to me shout, cry and moan as well as declare that I am quitting on several occasions, but he has always encouraged me to do my best and hasn’t complained.
The past 3 years have challenged me beyond anything I have done before but here I am in the last few months with my first nursing job lined up. I can look back and appreciate how tough it has been and be proud of the fact that I did it. Whatever stage of your nursing training you are at it is likely tough and challenging for you too right now; but please remember, you can do it, and you will make it to the end.
Alison Rosser is a current nursing student