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The unwritten handbook for starting a nursing course

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What should be included in a Freshers’ Survival Handbook for Student Nurses?

Katie Cope-SNT

In the four months since starting my nursing degree I have read countless course handbooks.

However, I am yet to locate a Freshers’ Survival Handbook for Student Nurses, something I think all student nurses could benefit from.

So, what would be in this handbook?

It would include a collection of handy tips to help students retain their sanity and not lose sight of themselves; the handbook would aim to relieve anxiety and promote socialisation and healthy living. It would feature all those things that I know now that would have aided my transition into what felt like the most overwhelming experience of my life.

“Hobbies provide familiarity at a time of uncertainty and change”

Turn to page one and you would be told not to stress about what you don’t know – you have three years, and an entire career, to learn and practice nursing. Instead, start your journey by reflecting on what you already know, and focus on those things that may enhance group discussion.

Trust me, there will always be something.

I am surrounded by students who have worked as healthcare assistants and home carers, each of whom have a wealth of experience and valuable advice to offer, particularly in practical sessions. In return, I openly share professional and personal experiences from my degree in social work and the career that followed, some of which bring out emotions that I’ve learnt to express openly.

Creating a strong, trusting support around you, within which you can express your emotions, will be invaluable throughout the next three years.

The next section would have to let the reader know that the promotion of a healthy lifestyle is central to the practice of nursing. It benefits a person’s physical, emotional and mental health. Within the first term, students spend most of their time sat in lectures or writing essays. The Fresher’s handbook would continue by stressing the importance of both extra-curricular activities and exercise.

Before starting university, I felt overwhelmed at the volume of work I was about to undertake, which led to me withdrawing from a 20 year old passion: choral singing. I quickly regretted my decision, and discovered that hobbies and exercise enhance studies by providing something familiar at a time of uncertainty and change.

What would you include in a Freshers’ Survival Handbook for Student Nurses?

“Every opportunity will help you develop as a nurse”

The handbook would guarantee that success and rewards directly relate to how much of yourself you give to your studies, and that every effort made is noted by tutors and lecturers.

Nominating yourself for Group Rep or becoming involved in a Curriculum Development Group will help staff, and future employers, identify you amongst your cohort. Asking for help or clarification, however silly it may seem, will show you are engaged and keen to learn, and it is very likely your query will also help other students.

If personal commitments allow, identify programmes outside of your course to develop your practice and knowledge, such as becoming a Care Maker. Every opportunity will help you develop as a nurse.

I believe every student nurse reading this article already has a vital characteristic to succeed - courage.

It takes a lot to admit you believe you have the ability to care for another person, the potential to save the lives of others and to work under intense pressure. You will have some amazing new experiences over the next few months – resuscitating dummies, dressing wounds, and of course your first day on placement.

Therefore, as the handbook suggests, take time over the next few weeks at university to absorb the classroom environment, get to know the students and lecturers with whom this journey will unfold and immerse yourself in the nursing programme.

At home, find a corner of a room and make it your place of worship – quiet, cared for and comfortable - and read all your handbooks. Good luck.


What would you include in a Freshers’ Survival Handbook for Student Nurses?


Katie Cope is in her first year studying adult nursing at Canterbury Christ Church University


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