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'I'm so nervous I am sick before each placement'


Can you advise this student nurse?


“I’m a first year student nurse and I’m just looking for some advice really.

“It’s about the first day of placement. I’ve had three placements now and I still find the first day so nerve-wracking that I’ve actually been sick before each one. Then when I get to placement I’m so tired from being up all night worrying and feeling nauseous that I make a really bad impression, such as yawning all the way through my first meeting with my mentor!

“Before my first placement I just thought this was normal and after I settled in I was fine. So when I was just as nervous before the next two placements I was surprised as I’m not normally an anxious person.

“I’m coming to the end of my third placement now and even though I’ve loved it and really settled in, I can feel the anxiety starting to creep in again due to the knowledge that I’m going to be starting another soon.

“Even though they’ve all gone well so far I keep thinking this next one is going to be the placement where it all falls apart. I think I’m going to make a mistake and hurt a patient or that there’s going to be an emergency and I won’t respond as I should, or just that my mentor will be a nightmare and I’ll be way out of my depth. I’m worried about so many worst-case scenarios that I don’t even know where to begin!

“I suppose I really just want to know how other people deal with feeling this way? Or if other people do in fact feel like this as everyone else on my course seems completely chilled out!”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Hi there.
    If it helps any I qualified last year and everything you said resonates with my memories of being a student nurse.
    On one hand please don't be too hard on yourself, as your anxiety is around being a good nurse and shows your dedication to the role. You are still a first year, so everything will be new to you. Nobody will expect you to act in an emergency yet, and their expectations of you will be lower than your expectations of yourself. Remember the course is three years long for a reason, and you have a long way to go before you are expected to be skilled enough to manage patient care alone. Even then you should be supported. So please try not to expect too much from yourself.
    I also felt that nursing was a huge responsibility and that panicked me, but you can only do your best and providing nursing care is a team, not an individual effort. As a student you are accountable to your university and guided by your mentor. In a way your fears are a good thing as they mean you will always be cautious and careful about your actions. But here I think they are a little too much to cope with.
    Please speak to your personal tutor or university counselling service who offer completely confidential support so you can start to develop coping strategies to deal with anxiety. Short term it is a useful thing but over time it can become draining and make us ill, and you don't want to burn out before you've seen your training through.
    You sound like a remarkable student nurse with a true desire to care but you need to look after yourself before you can look after others so nip this in the bud and get some support. Well done for asking for help and I wish you the best for the remainder of your training.

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  • Don't be too hard on yourself.Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, despite decades of fronting the band, got such bad stage fright he was physically sick before many of his shows. It can happen to anyone.
    Best thought is be straight with you mentors and personal tutors and explain what's happening. We were all first year students at some point, so we 've all had the thoughts (especially worst-case scenarios) you describe-you'll get a lot of sympathy,as well aas finding out you worries aren't imaginary, lots of other people beside you have had them.
    Final thought is nursing is a team activity-share your thoughts with the other team members.You wion't be thougt of as weak or lacking in something.

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  • starting a new placement can definitely be scary. Why dont you visit your new placement before you start? say hi to the ward manager, find out who your mentor is and get your rota if possible. Hopefully this will make your first day on placement seem less like a first day. Also, read up a little on the speciality you are going to, just so you have some idea of the main conditions and treatments you will see.

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  • If possible, take up some work as a healthcare assistant on the bank. This is what I done and I'm my first year of nursing. It increases your confidence and allows you to interact with a wide variety of patients which will prepare you for placement. Also, don't worry, I learn best from my mistakes, so if I never made any I probably wouldn't know half the things I do now. My mentor also doesn't expect half as much as I previously expected on my first placement just try and read around the speciality you are going to be working in. Try speaking to your tutor in university as well and seek their advice.

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  • I qualified 23 years ago and still remeber this feeling, not only did i have simialr feelings before placement but I used to get my Dad to do a 'dummy run' of driving me there the week or day before to try and alleviate some of these feelings, weirdly it did help. Just on your comment of 'not responding correctly or quickly enough' remember we are only ever as good as the level we are at, expectations for different people at different stages of their training or careers vary greatly and this is ok, we can only act within our remit of knowledge and experience at that time. Things get better I promise, some apprehension shows how invested in your training and education you are and how much it means to you and that is commendable and above all nursing is a team effort, you are not expected to act alone - we are a team.

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