3rd year students: dissertation advice from a NQN

Hello everyone,

My name is Kelly and I am a NQN, currently working at one of the local hospitals. I studied at Hull University like yourselves. I am here to write a little bit about different topics I think you may find helpful during your time as a student nurse and third years in particular!

Firstly, I will start with the dreaded dissertation and complexity modules! This semester is exceptionally difficult as you will be juggling these two modules at the same time, as well as placement. However, try to not be alarmed as it seems scarier than it is. You have the opportunity to choose the exam or essay, I personally chose the exam as I always did better in exams than in essays. Therefore, I would say play to your strengths and my advice on this, as simple as it sounds is start early! Think about the question(s) you are going to write about – these get given to you pretty early on, as the lecture content will be based on the questions. This way you can gather as much information about whichever topic you require as early as possible.

Whilst this is in motion, get thinking about your dissertation topic. It seems daunting at first but honestly, get it out the way. Take on the lecturers advice! Stick to their deadlines and to be honest, you can’t go wrong! To make it easier in my little head for example, I have an interest in Practice Nursing. Particularly asthma management and control, so for complexity I picked the question in relation to asthma/COPD. And my dissertation topic was also on asthma, this worked in my favour as all the information I was getting for my exam I could also use for my dissertation. Thus, less work on what feels like a million different topics! This may not work for everyone but it’s an idea to consider. Your essay/exam will be due in January, usually the first week. I would aim to have your dissertation topic and at least 6 papers chosen by this time. I did this by prioritising my time, therefore 2 days a week I would solely work on my exam topics and writing, another 2 days I would concentrate on searching for papers, getting question ideas. It seems like a lot of time taken up with university time, but your third years now guys, and no offence but it sucks to be you! However, you will get through it!

The lecturers will give out set dates for drafts to be handed in, stick to these dates. No later, as you won’t get the feedback back that – trust me; you’re going to need it! Don’t be alarmed by the lectures and at first yes, my word does the whole dissertation writing sound overwhelming. Just remember, it’s in 3 parts. So, look at it like 3 essays that you will just pop together at the end. Don’t start the next part until you’re finished or nearly finished the part prior, otherwise you’ll get overwhelmed and you’ll never want to go back to them! Reference as you go along, as one day you will realise you have about 30 references (and that’s just the first 5000 words ha!) and you have to spend 3 hours writing your reference list, and that’s just time you could of used elsewhere… from experience of course!

Just a little on placement, by this time your essay/exam will be well in the past and during this placement you will be getting your results! This placement is tough. As you will be dedicating your free days on dissertation, you get home from placement and you work on your dissertation… your weekends out no longer exist because you’ve guessed it, you have your dissertation to do!

If you haven’t already, by this placement you should be starting to take on your own patient workload. Maybe only 2 patients but at this time in your placement that’s more than enough, start liaising with doctors more and practice social / discharge planning. It’s the little things like this that will make your management placement so much easier. This is the placement to ask more questions, offer do to everything you can get your hands on! Even if it seems the most basic – like an enema! Haha! As there will come a time when you have to do one and think, I wish I did this as a student. Most of all, enjoy this placement; as the next one your workload will get bigger. I will write a little something about management placement another time.

The biggest advice I could give you, is even though all your time will be on placement or uni work, don’t do it alone. Help your friends and let them help you. Read their essay, read their dissertation and vice versa. As I wouldn’t have got the grade I got or were I got without my friends. Each and every one of you will be able to do this, if I can anyone can!

Kelly x

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