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10 Facts about being a Student Nurse

Matt B

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Nursing is definitely one of the most misunderstood careers and Nursing courses have one of the highest university drop-out rates.

This is because each year tens of thousands of students start their Nurse training without understanding what the job entails and how much time, dedication and love of the job it requires.

Below a is short and concise list of 10 Facts about becoming a Student Nurse alongside things you should consider before you start training as a nurse. I don’t mean to put you off – I’m just trying to be honest! 

  1. It’s hard work. This is something I can’t emphasise enough. During your three years of training you’ll be working 37.5 hours a week plus doing coursework, research and evidence for practice. If you’re thinking of becoming a Nurse because it’s easy – think again. Besides, it doesn’t just stop there, Nursing is a highly academic subject and you’ll be expected to develop and learn throughout your career.
  2. You’ll be expected to work shifts. Students Nurses will be expected to work long days (12-13 hours), short days (7 hours), nights and weekends. Your shifts will tend to match those of your mentors.
  3. You won’t have much of a social life. Well you will but it will involve fellow student nurses, books, study and falling asleep by 9pm or drunkenly comparing stories of the interesting things you’ve seen today.
  4. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. You will have the best and worst days of your life during your training. You’ll make a lot of life-long friends but you’ll also hold the hand of your dying patient as they take their final breath.
  5. You’ll be cleaning up every bodily fluid possible. Urine, faeces, vomit, sputum, blood, pus and many, many more your can’t yet imagine.
  6. Nobody else will understand. Your non-nursing friends will not understand your job. They won’t understand why you’ve had a bad day and they won’t want to hear about it. You’ll also constantly dispel the myths that Nursing is “sexy”.
  7. You’ll start from the beginning. Don’t expect to start giving out medications, placing IV lines and ‘healing’ patients on your first day. You’ll start with the basics and progress as you master those. Good patient care is at the core of nursing values.
  8. You can’t write your job description. Your job isn’t just giving out medications and making people better, you’re also a social worker, councillor, cleaner, carer, chef, riot police, negotiator, security, interpreter and a multitude of other things…
  9. You’ll develop a weird sense of humour. You won’t be shocked easily so Nurses tend to develop a weird and slightly odd sense of humour.
  10. Nursing isn’t just a career – it’s a lifestyle. You’ll become a Nurse in every part of your life; friends and family will call you for advice and strangers will ask you to look at their bunions on the bus.

The above list is by no means complete – being a Student Nurse then ultimately a Registered Nurse will affect your life in ways you simply can’t understand right now.  You’ll be present during the worst and best times in people’s lives – a privilege you should never underestimate, people will hang onto every word you say and your actions can and will result in life or death.

Are you a Qualified or Student Nurse? Tell us the best and worst things about your job in the comments.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. reeta sapkota

    13th January 2017 at 1:40 am

    yes its soo weird at first to experience nursing field…
    I had entered in nursing when I didn’t even understood its meaning after SLC..at first I used to think weather we r here for cleaning or for study…it was really fustrating…we don’t have much social life…we r in desperate and we can’t share with our old friends nor family..they don’t understand tooo…..I miss freedom…

  2. reeta sapkota

    13th January 2017 at 1:40 am

    yes its soo weird at first to experience nursing field…
    I had entered in nursing when I didn’t even understood its meaning after SLC..at first I used to think weather we r here for cleaning or for study…it was really fustrating…we don’t have much social life…we r in desperate and we can’t share with our old friends nor family..they don’t understand tooo…..I miss freedom…

  3. Dan

    15th June 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Be prepared to work all your days off from placement to earn enough to afford to live.

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Adam Kay’s Letter to the Secretary of State for Health

Matt B

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Adam Kay, a former Doctor, publishes an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health calling for him to walk a mile in the shoes of a junior doctor.

In his new book, ‘This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor,’ the former obstetrics and gynaecology doctor writes candidly about his experiences as a junior doctor and the effect working in medicine has on both his personal and professional life.

In the open letter to The Secretary of State for Health, he said;

“Roger Fisher was a professor of law at Harvard University, who suggested back in 1981 that they should implant the American nuclear codes in the heart of a volunteer. If the President wanted to press the big red button and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, then first he’d have to take a butcher’s knife and dig it out of the volunteer’s chest himself; so that he realizes what death actually means first-hand, and understands the implications of his actions. Because the President would never press the button if he had to do that.

“Similarly, you and your successor and their successors for ever more should have to work some shifts alongside junior doctors. Not the thing you already do, where a chief executive shows you round a brand-new ward that’s gleaming like a space station. No: palliate a cancer patient; watch a trauma victim have their leg amputated; deliver a dead baby. Because I defy any human being, even you, to know what the job really entails and question a single doctor’s motivation. If you knew, you would be applauding them, you’d be proud of them, you’d be humbled by them, and you’d be eternally grateful for everything they do.

“The way you treat junior doctors demonstrably doesn’t work. I strongly suggest you seek a second opinion.

If you’re interested in reading more, you can buy a copy of his book on Amazon or book tickets for his ongoing tour.

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The Junior Doctors Survival Guide written by Nurses

Matt B

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Well done. Congratulations. You’ve survived medical school and made it ‘on to the shop floor’, this is where the real test begins.

Your first few weeks as a Junior Doctor are going to be difficult and jam-packed; a new hospital, new colleagues, new patients, and a new hospital system to figure out.

Here are ten tips that will stand you in good stead for your first day, week, month, year and beyond. This is your Junior Doctors Survival Guide as written by Nurses;

  • Respect the nurses. You can come to us for advice and guidance – we will have you back – but please don’t take us for granted. We have an abundance of knowledge about our patients, the hospital and how to make stuff happen.
  • Each member of the team is important. Doctors, nurses, porters, physiotherapists, domestics, estates, plumbers – the hospital simply couldn’t function without them.
  • Don’t be a smart arse. We know and understand you have worked hard through medical school and congratulations on becoming a Doctor, but now it’s time to get to work.
  • Have a sense of humor. Make sure your able to have a laugh and a joke but be careful not to cross the line.
  • Master cannulation. I don’t just mean know how to put a cannula in – develop the skill and master it – it will stand you in good stead for the future.
  • Eat and drink. The list of jobs is, and always will be, almost endless. Make sure you take your breaks; eat, drink and chat to your fellow colleagues.
  • Show emotion. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to be hard – medical school hasn’t prepared you for the first few months of life as a Doctor. If you’re having an especially tough day talk to someone about it. Don’t beat yourself up for having a little cry – it happens to the best of us.
  • Don’t just look at the numbers. We spend 12 hours a day with our patient, we will come to you when “something just isn’t right”, we don’t know what, we can’t put our finger on it. But, we know our patients.
  • Your first death is hard. Expected or not, nothing can prepare you for the death of your first patient. We have all been through this. See- show emotion and How to Deal with the Death of a patient
  • Tidy up after yourself. Nothing and I mean nothing, annoys the ward staff more than a Doctor who thinks the staff are there to clean up after them. Tidy away your sharps, notes and coffee cup.
  • Ask for help. Your seniors are there to support you – it’s literally their job. Don’t be afraid to escalate patients or situations to them and never put yourself in a situation where you have no backup.
  • Admit when you simply don’t know. Making up an answer to a question can have serious consequences. If you don’t know. Say, but find out.
  • Try to go home on time. Look through your list – find out what can wait until tomorrow. Your downtime and social life are important too (check out our list of NHS Discounts for downtime ideas). You work to live not live to work.
  • The hospital at night is scary. There are fewer doctors, nurses and seniors around to support you. Call for help early and escalate appropriately.

Remember, you are part of our team. Our job is to work together in the interests of patient care. We will try to look after you, make you tea when you’re sad and, rest assured, we will tell you when you’re being an idiot.

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