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'I've realised it's normal to have a crisis of confidence'


I began my third year of training in March with an air of confidence and optimism. 

After receiving fantastic feedback from mentors and lecturers throughout second year, I felt well prepared for the challenge of third year.

I found myself facing a crisis in confidence

However, the reality was completely different. I found myself facing a crisis in confidence. I immediately began to panic when assignments were given out, and I found the prospect of going onto the ward as a third year student nurse highly overwhelming. 

Nurse training is a rollercoaster of a journey.  

I vividly remember sitting in my first lecture as a first year, being told that we would have days where we questioned why we were doing this course. 

At the time, I thought to myself that I would never feel like that; I have wanted to be a nurse since the age of three, so I was fulfilling a lifelong ambition by commencing my training. 

Reflecting back on the first two years of the course, I cannot recall a time where I doubted my decision to become a nurse. Now, as the first semester of third year draws to a close, there have been several occasions where I have lost faith in my abilities and questioned my motives for continuing the course. 

I had unrelenting fears that I didn’t know anything, and I felt under pressure to meet the expectations that my mentors and lecturers would expect from a final year student. 

After speaking with some newly qualified nurses, I was reassured that my confidence crisis was completely normal

On closer reflection, I realised that my fears were not founded, I had successfully made it through the first two years without any problems, so I reasoned with myself that I must be doing something right. I am highly passionate about nursing, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing any other job.  I understand now that my expectations of myself were too high; I simply needed reassurance and guidance from my mentor and my tutor, in order to clarify what is expected of me as a third year student.  

After speaking with some newly qualified nurses, I was also reassured that my confidence crisis was completely normal, and that they still question their own abilities as new registrants.

I am currently midway through my first placement as a third year, and although I still have days where I doubt my knowledge and skills, I accept that this is a natural part of nearing registration.

I am receiving positive feedback from my mentor, and I have had some touching comments from patients and relatives which make all of the worry and stress worthwhile. Nursing is a profession which requires a commitment to lifelong learning; it is very easy to begin third year with unrealistic expectations that you should know everything there is to know about nursing. 

I will hopefully get my registration in ten months. The prospect of being a registered nurse is exciting yet slightly terrifying. However, I know that qualifying as a nurse is just the start of my journey, and there are still lots of skills and knowledge to refine. 

I realise now more than ever that a good support network is vital. Mentors, tutors, classmates and family can all help give a much needed confidence boost, and there is a huge nursing community on Twitter with lots of nurses who can send a few virtual hugs! 

Every now and then, you need to be told by someone that you are doing well; faith and confidence in yourself is sometimes not enough. 

Rachel Stephens is a third year adult student nurse studying at Northumbria University.


Readers' comments (3)

  • A great article, I'm a 1st year student and I have those days! I get good feedback but still doubt myself and think are they really talking about me?!

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  • well done and good luck. I am sure the a crisis of confidence does no harm and helps get everything into perspective. It cannot be good to go through life with too much confidence in one's abilities and then fail without understanding why. it also helps one stay in touch with more understanding for other more 'normal' mortals and students who may experience similar difficulties.

    no matter what age and how much competence, experience and confidence you have you can still have a crisis of confidence in a new and different situation. none of us know it all or can do it all and can have a very negative impact on others if we pretend we do!

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  • i seem to have these crises regularly. i am approaching the end of first year and often feel that i know nothing and never will. there seems so much to learn and i have found myself highly sensitive to the views of the qualified nurses on placement. i feel embarassed when asking questions as though its something that i should know but the standards on placement are so high that i feel the need to confirm my assumptions before carrying out simple tasks. i felt much more confident in my last placement in the community but on the ward i am terrified of messing up or people thinking i'm stupid

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