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Student nurses as innovators: Time for fresh eyes

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Student NT editor Desiree Deighton reflects on her time as a trainee and, based on her own experience, highlights that students can have a real role to play in innovation and improving practice.

desiree deighton

In three weeks’ time I will send off for my nursing PIN and became a newly qualified staff nurse. This feels like such a paradox, as although my brain is a lot ‘heavier’ now with the knowledge and experience I have gained, I am forever reminded that it is barely a drop in the ocean compared to the already qualified nurses.

Nearly three years ago, I remember walking into my first placement with my heart racing and fists sweating, overwhelmed by the reality that my long-awaited dream was beginning that day.

I was a deer in the headlights and now I see this reflected by the first year students who stand nervously and silently at the outskirts of the team at handover. If you are one of these students, please be reassured that you will not feel this way for long and will soon flourish.

Student nurses may be seen as a new and temporary face to the team, however you have the potential to represent the student voice, innovate and drive real change in the NHS. As a student nurse, there are many opportunities to develop your skills outside of the university timetable, and oppose the stereotype of ‘naïve’ students.

We can not only receive knowledge passively but deliver it ourselves, with each placement giving us the opportunity to see with ‘fresh eyes’, to question current practice and identify areas in need of development.

I have without realising become an innovator in practice and coloured outside of the typical lines during my studies, which has barged my self-doubt and limitations out of the door.

“I have without realising become an innovator in practice and coloured outside of the typical lines during my studies”

I have loved every minute of being a student editor for Nursing Times and receiving such positive feedback for my writing, particularly on my children’s hospice placement and feelings of hopelessness at Christmas. Being invited to attend the Student Nursing Times Awards and meeting the other editors was a huge highlight to my year.

The Royal College of Nursing has also been a significant part of my journey. Its Celebrating Nursing Practice project asked for innovations from students and qualified staff, so I applied on a whim only to be taken through each round until being informed that I was one of four winners. This means that I will receive funding to make the little idea that I thought of in my first year as a student nurse into a reality.

Come October this year, not only will I be starting as a staff nurse but I will also be implementing a quality improvement strategy onto the ward I am employed by, much to the other nurses surprise!

With funding, my own copyright, printed booklets, training for staff, and mentorship from the RCN team, I aim to develop my own professional skills further so that I can present my idea as best practice across the UK.

These achievements caused me to be featured in the RCNi Bulletin and Nursing Standard, as well as winning child branch Student Nurse of the Year in the local trusts, which is an amazing statement for my CV going forward.

Not bad for “just a student” hey?

I am inspired every day by student voices, whether that is spotting our aeroplane-captain style uniform in among the crowds at political events, speaking at RCN congress in front of hundreds of professionals, voting on nurse pay or even just on Twitter.

The social media site is an amazing tool for development and pushes your boundaries when studying, demonstrated by the many Twitter-famous student nurses who share the highs and lows of training with the world, reminding us on our darkest days that we are not alone. It can also provide professional links – I was messaged by a health journalist for a BBC News feature about nursing – all through Twitter!

“You have huge potential and even if you don’t see it yet, push yourself to go out of your comfort zone”

I know first-hand that nursing teams can be at times, surprisingly unwelcoming to students. This is not okay and is usually an embedded culture, which can slowly ebb away at your enthusiasm, confidence and self-belief. Please do not let this bring you down!

Your time on that team has a shelf-life and will not last forever. Forget the negatives but take with you all the good qualities you see.

Do not let anyone put a ceiling on what you can achieve. You have huge potential and even if you don’t see it yet, push yourself to go out of your comfort zone, because we students are the innovators of the future.


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Lisa Inglis

    Wow, what an inspiring message for students and nurses who are wanting to make a difference

    Congratulations and good luck

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