Ten things I wish I knew before I became a student nurse

Yemi Giwa is third year Nursing Student who has experienced a lot during her degree so far. The added element of being on placement during a global pandemic certainly wasn’t in the course description but it’s an experience that thousands of student nurses across the country will hopefully benefit from. Even before COVID-19 sent shockwaves around the world, a degree in nursing has always been a challenging one. Below, Yemi outlines ten things that she wish had known before undertaking her degree…

1) You play a key role.

As a student nurse, they will tell you that you are supernumerary (which you technically are, because you do not have to be there) and some people may treat you like you are not necessarily important, but do not let that fool you. You are more important than what you are given credit for so make sure that you are not walked all over. Hospitals are understaffed a lot of the time so imagine if there weren’t any student nurses to fill in for missing staff members.

2) The possibility of a pandemic.

This is obviously something that no one could have predicted or even have prepared for, because it was not even on our minds. But I wish I knew how much of a role student nurses play in healthcare and I wish that I could have been a little bit prepared for something like COVID-19 (which no one obviously could).

3) Just because they are qualified, doesn’t mean that they are right.

As a student nurse you will come across staff nurses and other healthcare professionals who will do things that are not supposed to be done in the way that they are doing it – to cut time short and make their job easier rather than safer for the patient. As a student nurse you have the right to flag this up with the Practice Education Facilitator (PEF) or even voice that you are not comfortable engaging in their practice as that is not the way things should be done.

4. Missing out.

You will miss out on quite a few outings with your friends that do not study nursing – and even if you are off on the day that they want to go out, you might be too tired because you did a night shift the day before. Try and plan as much as you can because we all need a social life, but don’t feel bad when you can’t make it from time to time. However, do not worry as you will have plenty of opportunities to have fun with your friends and family. I also feel like The University of Manchester makes the student nurses’ schedule very student friendly and I am so grateful for the amount of free time they were able to allocate us while still ensuring that we meet our competencies.

5. Various personalities.

As much as nursing is a caring profession, you will come across negative personalities that will not want to help you even though you are there to learn. Do not be afraid to speak up (easier said than done), because this is your learning experience but if you do feel like you can’t speak up then make sure to flag it up with your Academic Advisor and PEF – you may be placed somewhere else or the issue may be resolved. That does not take away from the fact that there are also amazing professionals that truly love their job and will inspire you to come back the next day and work harder.

6. Your organisational skills will be tested.

If you are not organised, now is the time to start finding a way to become more organised e.g. get a planner, write important dates down. It is very easy to fall behind and once you are, it is hard (not impossible) to get back on track because of the hours of placement you have to do and new work that will be given the next week.

7. It is more academic than you think.

At The University of Manchester, nursing is more academic than it is at other universities. We have to complete modules in areas such as anatomy, physiology, public health, health psychology, and ethics. I personally believe that these modules have been hugely beneficial as they have helped me to link theory to practice.

8. Jargon and Acronyms.

When on placement, you will be clueless for at least the first couple of shifts you attend because healthcare professionals will be speaking in medical jargon. It is a good idea to write them down and make a little dictionary for yourself so you can keep up with it as it can be confusing at times.

9. Death.

This is something that is not always spoken or thought about, but you will witness deaths. Nothing will prepare you for it, it is just something that happens in our line of work. It is important to deal with it appropriately, so if that means speaking to your friends and/or loved ones about how it made you feel or journaling about it – make sure to do that because your mental health is very important.

10. It is physically demanding.

Nursing can be physically demanding at times, so it is a good idea to engage in exercise during your free time. Consider things like stretching after and/or before a shift, and sometimes a massage is nice too. This is just to keep you healthy and fit enough to work.

This list is not to, and should not, deter you from nursing but it does give you a realistic picture of what you can expect. Of course everyone’s experience is different and you may not have to face certain difficulties that I may have but at least you know what to possibly expect. If I had a chance to go back in time with all the knowledge I have about nursing, I’d still choose this degree and hopefully you will too.


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