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Student editor fresher advice: Children's branch

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Rachael shares with you what she wishes someone had told her before she started her Children’s nursing course

What I wish I’d known…

  • Learn stuff

Now I know this sounds obvious, but bear with me. You’ve signed up to a lifetime of learning “stuff”, but if you can lock yourself away with the children’s channel of youtube before you go out on your first placements, it will save you. Knowing what colour Peppa Pig’s wellies are, what Macca Pacca really thinks of the Ninkynonk (it’s a thing), and whether or not the Doctor’s latest companion can match up to Amy will enable you to strike up a conversation with just about any child you meet.

As a first year student on your first placement, there’s not a huge amount you can realistically do to make a difference to children and families, but take advantage of your quiet times on the ward and go sit with your patients. Being able to discuss something that’s important to them will help you build a relationship and help them like and trust you (which will make them more likely not to fuss when you have to take their pulse for the 5th time because you can’t quite get it).

  • Ask questions

All the questions, even the silly ones, the embarrassing ones and the ones you know you asked yesterday but have already forgotten the answer to. Yes your lecturers and your mentors are very busy people, and yes every question you ask sends their lunch break a bit further away, but don’t forget that they’re here because they want to help you, they want to shape the future of nursing and want to make you the best nurse you can be. Enthusiastic students who genuinely want to learn will most of the time be rewarded by teachers who see the opportunity to pass on all their greatest passions.

  • Don’t believe everything you read on the internet

Before I started my first year, I scoured blogs, articles and twitter feeds, trying to find out what life as a student nurse was really like. By the time my first day came around, I’d become convinced that my life was over, my relationship was doomed and I was about to give up everything to become a nurse.

Too. Much. Pressure.

Also, it’s just not true. Organise yourself and buy a diary. Not that cute one from the posh stationary shop that fits nicely in your handbag, you need one about four times bigger. It will be full of submission dates, exam timetables, placement shifts, email addresses, websites and a whole lot more, but it will help you to keep on top of things and this is key to having a life. Which you need if you want to stay sane.

  • Get the skin of a rhino

The thing about working with children is that they don’t come alone - they tend to be surrounded by parents/carers/aunties/uncles - all of whom are terrified. Their child is in hospital, nothing makes sense and they are probably weighing up whether or not they will lose their job by taking another day off to be there. Fear can manifest itself in many ways, so don’t be surprised if a Dad starts shouting at you, or a Mum tells you that you are the most incompetent human being she has ever met. By no means is everyone like this (in fact most parents I’ve come across are lovely), but there is no accounting for how people will behave when they feel like the person they love the most is in danger. Keep in touch with your mentor, get support, and if you can go home knowing that you have done the absolute best you can, then try to put the negative behaviour down to the stresses they are under, and don’t take it personally.


Rachael Starkey is Student Nursing Times’ editor for Children’s branch

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