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.