I started my third year two weeks ago and am filled with fear; of failure, of success, and of procrastination.
However, there is no time for any of these. I have started saying no to things to which I used to say yes. I am certainly feeling the pressure.
This is normal.
Now I have begun to prioritise. I have taught weekly fitness classes for the last six years and have had to put them on hold from this week. I do feel that I am letting people down, losing a part of my identity as a health role model and my lifestyle is being sacrificed. At university I have handed over the reins of class course representative. I simply had to reduce my load.
For students like me that start in April, the year begins with six weeks of consolidation work before the start of third year. We will have handed in our last assignment - a literature review - by mid-December, meaning that all our assignments will be finished in six months, the course in a mere seven; final ‘year’ it isn’t. Officially I can’t start a job until April 2016 so I will have the best part of eight weeks ‘off’ (well, working part-time as bank staff). I want this so much I can handle the sacrifices, despite how sad I feel about them all.
I have got used to predicting what it is that will cause me the most stress and started to act upon it. The next six months will be a rollercoaster.
The other week I had a fabulous time with my fellow SNT editors at the Student Nursing Times Awards ceremony. I took my Mum to the event as I was shortlisted for Student Mental Health Nurse of the Year. I didn’t win but my amazing colleague from Birmingham City University, Laura Fitzgerald, did and I am very happy for her. I was grateful to be shortlisted in my second year and I am sure I speak for my fellow nominees when I say it was great to be recognised and we should be proud to represent other student nurses who are out there and working hard. Getting up on stage in my role as editor was nerve-wracking and certainly outside of my comfort zone, but I know this is what I need to develop and become successful.
I attended my first nursing job interview this week but I was not successful. I have had many rejections and perceived failures in my 30 years. I used to look upon them badly and found each one hard to deal with. Now I am much better at brushing it off, understanding why and taking feedback, as well as seeking out how to improve so I can do better next time. I did not expect to get my first job right away, despite my award nomination. I did however want to start the process early because I know I suffer from quite horrific nerves in interviews - yet I can happily stand on stage in front of 800 people or teach classes of 40 people at time. I needed to understand the structure of nursing interviews and get the process rolling. I now have some very constructive feedback to work on going forward - I would recommend you to take this advice if it is offered to you, and if not, seek it out!
I’m not 100% clear about the direction I want to take when I qualify and I think the next two placements will establish it. The beauty of mental health nursing is that there are many avenues I can take; I could go to acute inpatient to learn the ropes; or to specialise somewhere such as CAMHS, Mother and Baby or forensics; or perhaps into the community. I find every one of these incredibly interesting. I have colleagues, staff and friends giving me their view about what I should and shouldn’t do when I qualify. I will take on-board what they say but at the end of the day, it’s my own decision.
I think there will be big challenges over the coming six months or so and I fear how much we have to fit into the remaining time. A literature review spanning the six months, an assignment and viva, all whilst being on placement, taking another module as well as management placement. I have been waking up early every morning. I am moving house in less than six weeks, and a week after I am back out on placement again. I have another family member unwell.
Still, we all have our personal and professional challenges to face. I can smell the end of the course now and it has many inticing aromas: holidays, spending time with loved ones and finally getting paid to work.
My advice is to prioritise, get on the rollercoaster and try to enjoy the ride - and look after yourself. I love having a goal in sight and a certain amount of time pressure. Hopefully, I’ll read this blog at the end of January 2016 and have a little smile to myself as I recall how I felt and where I am now.
Becky Kidman is Student Nursing Times’ mental health branch editor