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What’s it like to be a second-year student nurse?

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Second year student nurses are often told that they’re “stepping-up” a gear. But what does this really mean?

Firstly, congratulations on getting through your first year. In just 6 months’ time, you will be half way through your nurse training. Take a minute and let that sink in.

Gone fast hasn’t it?

Well, it’s not about to slow down. The theory goes that in first year you watch procedures, in second year you do them yourself under the watchful eye of your mentor and in third year you’re trusted to carry out some procedures independently.

It’s not unusual to be struck by “I-can’t-do-this” after the initial relief of passing first year has worn off. You no longer have the “I’m new” excuse but you still very much have the “I’m still a student” excuse. You’re still learning, being a second year does not mean everyone will suddenly expect you to know everything.

“It’s not unusual to be struck by “I-can’t-do-this””

It does, however, mean your mentor and other staff will allow you to do more. As you’re no doubt aware, many students drop out in first year, getting to second year shows you’re serious and your colleagues on placement will appreciate this.

Clinical Lead, Michelle, remembers the shift from first to second year clearly: “The big difference for me was the change in responsibility, it’s like you’ve gone from being new to being only two years away from qualifying. It’s exciting but it’s so easy to be overwhelmed.”

Now’s the time to identify where your weaknesses lie and make these the focus of the year. Not sure what your weaknesses are? Think about what truly scares you– is it contributing to handovers or team meetings? Writing essays? Communicating with your patients’ relatives?

“If something scares you, make it your mission to change that.”

If something scares you, make it your mission to change that. Second year is your opportunity to find out what you need to work on, and the only way to turn your weaknesses into strengths is to step out of your comfort zone.

“I knew I’d have to start giving injections in second year,” recalls Michelle. “Somehow I’d got away with never giving one in first year but I didn’t want to get to the end of the course and still be scared. As soon as I started placement I told my mentor this was something I wanted to work on. By the time I was qualified, I was the (self-titled) Depot Queen!”

There’s no getting around it, you will have more academic work and your placements will expect more of you. You will need to step-up a gear but did you really want to stay in first (year and gear)?

Embrace the new opportunities that are about to come your way, you’ve survived your first year of nursing. You can do this.

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