Looking back on her first year of nursing, student nurse Louisa reflects on what it has taught her
There may have been blood, sweat and tears (not all mine), but this week I finished the first year of my nursing degree. Now, I have two years left but I feel immensely proud of myself just for getting this far.
I won’t lie to you; this year has thrown everything at me. I’ve had placements I’ve hated, mentors who haven’t been supportive, even times when I’ve completely doubted whether I have picked the right career at all.
Make no mistake – training to be a nurse is hard. Trying to balance a social life, or any sort of life, whilst on placement has been exhausting. I have just finished 10 weeks on a busy children’s surgical ward, and the majority of my days off were spent catching up on sleep and trying to regain enough energy to be able to face the next shift!
But even though there have been difficult times, I have learnt a lot (both academically and about life) through my nurse training, such as perseverance. This degree course is a marathon, not a sprint. At times, especially when you’re struggling with an assignment or not enjoying placement, the end seems so far away and you wonder whether you’d have been better off going to pick fruit in Australia like so-and-so on Facebook.
But then, just as there are bad days, there are good days. For example, when I took my first cannula out unassisted or stopped a child in pain from crying. The days when it all fits into place are amazing. You will feel that hit of adrenaline and realise ‘yes, I can do this and I will be a good nurse’. You have to hang on to those experiences and remember them in your hardest times as a student nurse.
Make use of your support systems around you as well. The friends you make on the course will understand completely what you are going through. Even those friends who may be having a wonderful placement, whilst you are tearing your hair out, will have had tough times at some point. Keeping in contact with others and knowing they were in similar situations really helped me put my experience into perspective.
So future student nurses, you have a lot to look forward to. Understand that things along the way will test you, but they will also make you a stronger person and a better nurse. Part of nursing is reflecting on what went right and what could be improved next time. For example, on my next placement, I plan not to faint on my first day and thus be known as ‘the girl who fainted’ for the rest of the placement!
Learn to laugh at yourself and take as much on board as possible, and if all else fails, just remember why you wanted to be a nurse and work towards that.
Louisa Davies is currently in her first year studying children’s nursing at Edge Hill University