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Stepping up a gear: starting second year

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Second year comes with a sudden increase in responsibility, find out how SNT student editor, Katie, managed the transition

I’m now about halfway through my first placement of second year and it’s different to anything I’ve experienced before.

I’ve moved up a level, from “beginning practitioner” level to “emerging practitioner”. I’d been told, but to be honest I just wasn’t expecting it to be such a jump.

The biggest difference I’ve noticed so far is the difference in language: I’m now being asked if I want to come and DO things with patients, instead of simply watching; if I know how to do things rather than if I want to be shown. It’s good to feel staff belief in my ability now, even though it’s only three months since I was last on a ward.

The increased security of a low secure unit, instead of the acute ward I was on at the end of last year, is a big difference though. I’ve really been thrown in the deep end as far as responsibility for my own learning is concerned, as my mentor has a lot of annual leave this month, so I’m having to direct and arrange my own experiences and be very self-motivated.

I kept a diary for the first week, to share my thoughts and experiences.



First day of placement… is a bank holiday! I felt a bit foolish when I called my contact on the ward to tell them the date I was starting, only to met with: “No you’re not”. He then waited for me to ask “I’m not?” before he explained…

Lesson one, always check your calendar! I spent most of today writing an essay in the university library.



My actual first day!

I had to get up at 4.45am to leave the house at 5.20am, as I’m booked onto a long day and live about two hours away from the hospital I’m working at. When I arrived on the unit I was welcomed with open arms and a cup of coffee though before being delivered to the ward I was going to be working on.

The team are really friendly, but I won’t meet my mentor until tomorrow. I spent the day shadowing the nursing assistants to get to know some of the service users.



I did another long day today, really productive this time - I had my initial interview with my mentor and had my key induction so I could wander the ward freely (and importantly, go to the bathroom without having to ask someone to let me in).

I also had a really interesting chat with the dual diagnosis nurse working on the ward, who agreed to let me shadow her next week when my mentor is on leave. I’m really looking forward to it already, I’ve been studying substance misuse and self-harm at university before coming on this placement and it’s one of the areas on my list of fields I might specialise in.



I took two of my days off on Thursday and Friday this week, to recover from the two consecutive long days and the travel involved, and to get some work done on my essays. Well, you know what they say about good intentions - I probably spent a bit longer than I intended to watching Netflix…

Still, I got the work done that I wanted to do and I felt a lot more refreshed for having a lazy day-and-a-bit. My other day off is Sunday, since public transport doesn’t allow me to get to the ward in time for any of the usual shift start times.



My last long day for a couple of weeks; this morning was particularly hellish as, thanks to weekend public transport, I had to get up even earlier in order to get to the ward slightly later. This morning’s journey took two and half hours and I had to leave the house before 5am. The milkman looked surprised to see me!

Weekends are quiet on this ward, so I followed the NAs around again and got to know some more of the patients. One of them performed a poem he’d written about medication paranoia, which was amazing.


I can’t believe how quickly my first week has gone. I’m really looking forward to learning about the work the dual diagnosis nurse does next week - and by the time this post appears on Student Nursing Times, my diary of that week should be on my own blog: Highly Caffeinated Nurse


Katie Sutton is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for mental health branch

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Readers' comments (1)

  • tinkerbell

    don't you have an associate mentor to take you under their wing in the absence of your mentor whilst they're on annual leave?

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