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'Set up a nursing society; you won't regret it'

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Choosing to study nursing sets you on a career path which will see you experience all aspects of humanity, from an individual’s moment of unbridled joy to their vulnerability at the darkest times of an illness.

Louisa Power

However, before you become a staff nurse, you need to complete your degree education. Studying nursing can be exceptionally rewarding but it can also be a highly stressful time in your life.

One way of to stay on top of your stress levels is to seek out peer-to-peer support in the form of your university or students’ union nursing society. But what do you do if one doesn’t exist? You can set one up!

Here are five tips to help get you started.

1) Do your homework

The first step in setting up a successful nursing society involves doing a bit of background research. It is a good idea to make an appointment with a staff member at your students’ union or association and ask for a society information pack. You will need to establish your nursing society’s aims, values and ascertain what exactly your members want to get out of the society.

The Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) Nursing Society utilised online polls to reach out to potential members. We established that our peers were interested in social events, student-led conferences, peer-support and guest speakers.

The final step in the preparation process involved electing our committee. One aspect which I think has worked particularly well in our society is that our committee is made up of students from across the different branches of nursing. This has really helped to bring us together.

2) Be sociable

We live in a digital age where a wealth of information can be accessed at the touch of a button. Therefore, I highly recommend setting up a Twitter handle and Facebook account for your new society.

Creating a social media account is a great way to communicate with your members about upcoming events, gather ideas, harness inspiration and attract new members.

The GCU Nursing Society started with a modest 17 members at its inception and has grown exponentially to almost 600 over the last year after we established our Facebook group.

Don’t forget to set up privacy settings and always keep the NMC’s code on confidentiality at the forefront of your society’s constitution.

If you plan to hold a society event, decide on a hashtag and inform people of its existence. This has the benefit of collating your audience’s tweets and gives you and the rest of the Twitter world an insight into your event.

3) Extend the hand of friendship to other societies

One of the key attributes of a successful student nurse is the ability to work well within a team.

Effective team-working is also a key value of our society and has provided us with a number of exciting opportunities to get involved in campus life.

This year the GCU Nursing Society collaborated with The Caley Women’s Group to campaign for free sanitary products for students as a reaction to the 5% luxury tax applied to feminine hygiene products.

It also gave our society the opportunity to get involved in some on-campus health promotion, raise awareness of women’s experiences of health inequalities and challenge the stigma surrounding a number of women’s health issues.

Helping out other societies can be a great way to network, gain insight on how to improve your own society and develop a sense of campus camaraderie.

4) Get involved in the wider world of nursing

Organised your committee? Check. Set up your society’s social media platforms? Check. Signed up members? Check. Fantastic. Now it is time to get out and explore what is going on in nursing outside of your society’s bubble.

This year the GCU Nursing Society invited MSP Malcolm Chisholm and former BBC news health journalist Pennie Taylor to discuss why the next generation of nursing students needs to be politically aware.

Through my role as Student Information Officer for the RCN I have become increasingly aware that the role of the nurse in bettering the lives of patients does not stop at the nurses’ station. This generation needs to use its voice to help shape social policy and campaign for the best outcomes for both our patients and colleagues.

Why not invite an inspiring nursing speaker along to one of your society’s meeting and generate a debate?

Last year our nursing society also led our students association’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign. The key aim of this campaign was to highlight public health issues, such as supporting survivors of sexual assault, and empowering student nurses to have the confidence to approach topics such as domestic abuse.

The society invited a number of healthcare specialists from the community to contribute articles and give guest presentations, and by the end of the campaign our blog had over 4000 hits.

By getting involved in campaigns such as ’16 Days’ you can raise awareness of supporting organisations to enable effective, safe and timely referrals.

5) Have fun

And finally, have fun.

The completion of a nursing degree is both challenging and rewarding in equal amounts so make sure to schedule social events to provide peer-to-peer support.

Why not speak to your students’ union and see if they do deals for society events? And don’t forget to take pictures of your events and add them to your social media account to attract new members and show your current members you value them by tagging them.

Louisa Power is a current nursing student at Glasgow Caledonian University

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