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Top tips for surviving your first year as a student nurse

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September is an exciting and nerve wracking time for most new starters at university.

What with the build-up to the all-important and bankrupting freshers’ week, wondering how you are going to live with complete strangers, the stress of trying to fit your existing life around a course you’ve been reliably informed is “demanding”, it’s no wonder most new student nurses feel more than a little stressed.

Here are my top tips for surviving year one:

1.    Enjoy the excitement!

Nursing is demanding. Being a nursing student means you not only have the rigours of your home life and work during placement times, but you have assignments and exams to think about too. You’ll need a support network of people to talk to and people to laugh with when things get tough so make time for the new people you’re going to meet, make friends on your course because only those who have been there will truly understand the highs and lows. Let’s face it, there aren’t many friends who will stomach talk of bodily fluids over breakfast but you’ll be doing it before you realise.

2.    Read read read (& listen!)

I don’t mean just bury yourself in the library - listen to the news, read Twitter and Facebook, have a look at some of the great blogs out there that break down research in to digestible chunks and help you stay current. Be aware of how the NHS is changing - this is likely to come up in your course and it will dictate a lot of your future.

Read what is given to you, your module handbooks will have important information that will help you to pass assignments and your OARS (Ongoing Record of Achievement) will tell you how to pass your placements.

3.    Get the basics

Do what you can to feel like a nurse, it will help your confidence. Get a fob watch - they’re cheap and come in amazing colours. I guarantee as soon as you put it on your uniform you’ll feel much nurse-ier.

An iron is a must-own, sorry!

A good anatomy book will help you out. When choosing one, think about how you like to learn - if, like me, you like cartoons and quizzes then head for the “Palgrave Great Ways to Learn” series. You may prefer other books but the main thing is you are going to use it so it needs to work for you.

4.    Make Time

Make time in your schedule for something that isn’t related to nursing. Be it a team sport, reading poorly written fan-fiction or dressing up and re-enacting Viking invasions - do something that will take you away from nursing at least once a week. You will need it - you don’t want to burn out before the end of year two.

5.    Remember People Want You to Succeed.

Nurses generally do not eat their young and the ones who do bite everyone. Everyone - from your friends, to the university, to your mentors - wants you to succeed and will be willing to help you in any way they can. So don’t be afraid to ask questions, to raise points you don’t understand, or to ask someone to quiz you on drug regimens or particular conditions you are having trouble with.


Rebecca Bond is a 2nd year nursing student, studying mental health nursing at University of Plymouth

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