At the end of last year, University of Northampton final year nursing students took part in an exercise where they reflected on why they decided to become a nurse, ahead of their impending graduation and ‘hitting the wards’ for real, as registered professionals.
They and other recent graduates and UoN lecturing staff provided positive thoughts and top tips for their peers as they progress through the final weeks of their undergraduate studies.
In the spirit of sharing, we’ve collated some of these below as a ‘Master Class’ blog, with useful advice applicable for any level of nursing student.
Lianne Abbott (pictured above), third year Adult Nursing student, imparted some of her words of wisdom whilst waiting for an Uno bus at Waterside campus. Watch the full video (duration: 1 min:54 secs):
“Create a planner or schedule for every week. Don’t worry about the days when you are on placement, as you can still plan for the days when you are not.
“Factor in research, reading and social time (very important!)
“Even if you aren’t very active, include a little bit of exercise, even if it’s just running up and down the stairs for five minutes every day. When on placement, use the stairs instead of the lift.
“When doing coursework, don’t spend hours at the lap-top as it can hurt the eyes and can affect the muscles. Do 45 mins max and then have a tea break to get you through.
“Always think positive – believe in yourself. Talk to family and friends if you are feeling stressed but if they can’t help, always approach your lecturers. This doesn’t have to be your PAT, they are all there to help.
“Dissertation – don’t leave your planning until the last minute. Start thinking about this half way through Year 2 and you’ll be fine.”
Comments from other nursing students
Mollie: Nothing can prepare you first time you put on blue uniform – it felt like I was wearing a costume! But remember, you know your ‘stuff’ – you wouldn’t be wearing it now if you didn’t!
“I imagine that, even after 20 years as a nurse, every day will be a learning day.”
Katie: “No one expects you to know everything – ask questions and people should be happy to help you.
“Keep your nurse friends – although I’m on different journey to mine, we meet once or twice a month to catch-up and talk when things are difficult.”
Becky: “Support from family, mentors and also my patients helped me transform into being a nurse. You can bring joy to a patient’s life, even for just a few minutes.
“My top tip – nursing is like learning to drive. You don’t really know it until you actually get out there and do it. Good luck!”
Danielle: “I remember sitting in classroom and feeling I will never know enough and how can I pretend to be a nurse with my blue uniform on? Once you accept you will never know everything about nursing, it becomes easier to have the confidence to ask questions. You are bound to not know something – it will always be a learning experience.
“Soon enough, it will be a student coming to you and asking questions. Lack of knowledge gives you the chance to strive for more.”
Stacey: “Remember to make use of the library – your academic library staff are amazing! They can look over your dissertation and help with grammar. The environment is important – find a nice, quiet space. I used to go at the weekend and evenings because you can get your head down and do your work.”
Of all the feedback from more than a hundred students, the following from Jessica sums everyone’s feelings up: “Watching these videos has given me back some much-needed motivation and determination.
“I feel reassured that we can all get through it with focus being on our end goal – a qualified nurse!
“These videos have made me really excited for the future.
“From this, I will continue working hard and prepare myself to the best of my abilities ready for registration.”
Comments from UoN Nursing Lecturers across all four fields
“It takes a kind heart to be a brilliant nurse, adhering to the trust policy and working in a team.
“Evidence based practice is the ultimate aim of nursing.
“We should not forget to ask of what we are not sure of.
“It’s a dream coming true!”
Dr Fiona Barchard (Senior Lecturer, Adult Nursing): “Always remember the ‘Six C’s!
“Be caring and compassionate – not just to your patients, but to yourself and your team members.
“Communicate – talk to each other, to your family, especially if things are getting tough.
“Be competent – remember, you never know it all. Always learning and developing.
“Have courage – be prepared to challenge and stand up for patients, report when things are wrong.
“Commitment – being a nurse takes this as it can be hard. Going into work on a cold, wet Christmas day when the family are tucking into dinner. It is still worth it.
“Never stop believing that, maybe, you can change the world.”
Emma Dillon (Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing): “Keep in touch with us, especially the academic who follows you in practice. Let us know when things are feeling good or bad and flag this to the module team.
“Remember, if you don’t ask for support, people won’t always pick it up. Year three is where it all comes together – so enjoy it!”
Shev O’Brien (Lecturer in Practice Development): “Hit the wards, enjoy what you are doing, stick to your values, that is what’s best for the patient – remember, you are their advocate.
“Expect criticism – take it on the chin and get feedback.”
Francis Beckett (Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing): “The more questions you ask during your studies, the better the learning experience for you – it is good to challenge your lecturers!
“When in lectures, put your hand up if you don’t understand any terminology as you can bet you won’t be the only one. Ask the lecturer to explain things in a different way.”
Clare Bramer (Senior Lecturer in Practice Development): Get your Xmas annual leave booked in asap, so you get some time off over the festive period. Book regular annual leave breaks, especially if you are full-time.
Andy Winter (Senior Lecturer, Practice Development): “It’s your third year – intense stuff! Be organised and do what you have been doing…but better!
“Be open and honest – with colleagues, your lecturers, talk to people, get advice, question and challenge. The light is visible at the end of the tunnel!
“My top tip: I got sick on my first day – don’t do that! Seriously though, look after yourself.”
Iain Schrantz (Lecturer in Practice, Mental Health Nursing. Currently based in Australia but who will soon join the team): “When you start new role, you will have busy shifts. It’s really appreciated by your colleagues if you are someone who gets stuck in and helps, especially if others are struggling.”
And, finally, Roger Keenoo, Subject Lead for Mental Health Nursing, went so far as to dial in for an exclusive extra comment from a ‘secret location’ (Bermuda), where he assures us he was very busy at a student recruitment fair for nurses who wish to train at Northampton as MH practitioners: “I’m sorry I can’t be with you…I know you will do well. Remember, we are always here for you. I’m looking forward to seeing you as effective professionals in the future. Good luck – Roger and out!”