Drawing on my first year as a student nurse

So as my first year as a student nurse is almost over and I transition into year 2 (Scary I know!) I just wanted to reflect back on this journey so far and offer some advice to those of you who are about to embark on this journey. I remember this time last year; I had left my job in pharmacy where I had worked for three years and I decided at this point to just enjoy the last few weeks or normalcy before my whole life was about to change. I went through all kinds of emotions; excitement, dread, excitement again and then I started to question my capability, I mean I have always succeeded in my previous jobs but academically I am not the best, this was worrying me quite a lot, to the point I almost pulled out.

First day of University

However, the night before, I was like a child on Christmas eve, I was so excited, I showered, I got my bag ready, I picked an outfit out (which actually changed several times) and then went to bed, early I might add. I hardly slept that night with nerves and excitement. Then before I knew it the day was here. I was lucky that I already knew a couple of people from the University Certificate course I had done previously but I was still nervous to meet other people. I drove down early and got parked up, I walked down to the library where I met Chloe, a girl I had messaged on the university of Hull Facebook page that morning to see if anyone wanted to meet before heading to the lecture theatre. After that, a few others came, and we walked down. As I sat in that big lecture theatre I was hit with an overwhelming feeling of pride, finally my dream was happening. That week was full on with enrolment, collecting ID, getting my hep B vaccination, meeting my AST group (I may be biased but my group is the best!) and collecting my uniform (this part was the highlight of my week) it flew by.

The next week, however, was intense to say the least. Going from a relaxed environment of getting to know people and exploring areas of the campus to then having full on lectures and the expectations as well as the simulation aspect too (which was exciting in itself). I can honestly say I felt drained after this week (apparently its normal so do not worry, its known as freshers’ flu!)

The morning of my practice assessments

During the next 3 months (first trimester) I had weekly simulation practice; this was so much fun. It included learning how to take a manual blood pressure and other vital signs, handwashing, manual handling, and medication as well as many others. Following this I had assessments which I had to pass to enable me to go out on placement. The assessors were all very nice and guided you if you were stuck, remember they want you to pass not fail.  I remember panicking but once I got in there it was fine.

As placements got announced, I remember being with my friend, my allocation was somewhere I had never heard of before, it was not ward based or community and was more office rather than clinical. I will not lie I was upset, but after talking to university and my wonderful AST my doubts were gone. It was just the waiting game to get started. However, the week before placement came I had an email saying mine had been cancelled (this is rare to happen) so I waited anxiously for a new placement to be allocated but finally a few days later I was allocated an area that I actually really wanted. I was over the moon, finally I was able to get excited about it. Now I had to rush and find somewhere to take up my trousers, sort my parking pass out, and all the other bits and bobs.

The night before placement was filled with nerves and excitement. My bag was packed, my uniform was ironed, and my alarm was set for 5am a time I had not seen in years. Off to bed I went, and before I knew it, it was time to get up. As I arrived at the car park I sat for a few minutes gathering the courage to walk in and go up to the ward (luckily I reached out on the Facebook group and found someone who was joining me on the ward) so we met and went up together. The moment we pressed the buzzer and was let in, my heart was racing. We were shown were to put our bags and then shown to the kitchen where other staff members were sat. We were introduced to everyone and then handover started. (be prepared to not understand anything that is said in handover, this is absolutely normal, eventually it will become clearer) I was then allocated to my assessor who would be the one guiding me and completing my interviews throughout the 6 weeks. Now the fun began, I was working with different members of staff on a daily basis and it was so much fun. I loved the interactions I had with the patients and getting to know the routine of the ward. The next several weeks were so much fun, by the end of placement I was sad to leave. I learned so much and I was not ready to go back to university.

The first day back at university I was on a high, I was so lucky to have had a good placement and to have got Pebble pad completed (something that will be your enemy but hopefully will learn to like it as you go on your placements) Seeing everyone again was great and what was even better was no early mornings, win, win!

The following week however, we only attended a couple of days and then we were told due to COVID-19 that we were going online. I admit I did not think it was going to get as bad as it did. I think like many others did, that it would have been a simple case of shutting for a few weeks then back to university, but announcement after announcement, we were in full lockdown, everything online and our June placement was cancelled. It felt like everything was spiralling out of control. The second semester was hard, we were online for nearly almost of it. University were trying their best to help, but it was all new to them too. Luckily after the hardest three months my assignment was submitted on time (we were also given extensions without being penalised) and I sat the open exam which meant we could take as many attempts as we wanted to and the best score would be accepted. Trust me this was a blessing, especially with a topic such as Life and Social Sciences, psychology and sociology were not my friends and still are not. The day the results came was the best feeling, I knew then that all that stress was worth it. I did it!

Now that I am almost at the end of trimester three. I can honestly say that online learning has been much better with weekly Panopto tutorials and more interaction from students and staff which has helped massively in these last two modules. Looking back on this last year I am so proud of myself and the sept 19 cohort for getting through this and I am excited to move into second year.

Advice for those of you who are starting first year

Meet new people, do not be shy, everyone is in the same situation as you. Those people you meet may well turn out to be the best support system you have because they too are going through this journey. (if you have time take part in other activities, this will help you to unwind as well as meet new people).

If you are struggling, reach out, the worse thing you could do is not reach out and get help, whether it is for academic, financial, or mental health support, the university are there for you.

Once you have the module content start reading and planning, being organised and having time management is essential (unless you are the type who strives on last minute essay writing before the deadline) save your self from stress and worry.

Be positive on placements even if it is an area you are not interested in. There is always something to learn and being positive and happy can make a huge difference.

Take advantage of every opportunity offered to you that is appropriate, being a student is an amazing opportunity to see and do new things.

If you have not already got a twitter account, then create one and follow the amazing teams such as #WeStudentNurse #StNurseProject who are full of information and support as well as many others.

Have fun and enjoy every minute of it because it goes by really quick!

Mandi xx

If you would like to submit a piece for the blog please email hullnursingsocietyblog@gmail.com

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