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‘You need to look after yourself so you can look after others’

The key to a healthy patient is having a healthy nurse behind them.



Nurse in hallway

Caring for other people’s family and friends is something that comes naturally, but many simply forget to look after themselves.

Nurses spend hours a day attending to patients needs; making sure they are fed, hydrated, pain-free, repositioned, comfortable, clean, medicated and observations recorded – but the one thing nurses are not the best at is making sure their own needs are attended to.

As a student nurse, I understand we are all guilty of neglecting our own needs yet we are knowledgeable about the importance of them for physical and mental health.


How many of these apply to you?

  • Missing your break or taking your break late because you are focused on making sure your patient is comfortable.
  • Walking around with a full bladder because you are too busy to go to the toilet.
  • Staying late after a shift to fill out paperwork you didn’t have time to do during the day.
  • Mot taking time to sit down and have a drink during the shift.
  • Working back to back shifts not getting a good night of sleep.
  • Eating unhealthy food because you are too tired after a shift to prepare a healthy meal.
  • Working numerous shifts and not being able to spend time with your loved ones.
  • Not taking time to process things seen on shift.
  • Not having the energy or the time to participate in regular exercise.

Nurses do this over and over again without even a thought because they prioritise patient’s needs and want their patients to receive the best care as mentioned in the NMC code (2016).

Can you, hand on heart, say that you provide the best care to your patients when you are tired, hungry, thirsty and have a full bladder? I think the key to a healthy patient is having a healthy nurse behind them, you cannot fully care and support others if you are not caring for yourself.

Steps you can do to look after yourself

  • Plan when your break, discuss with other nurses when they are going and make sure you can take turns to cover the other nurse’s role.
  • Take a bottle of water with you and have this at the nurse’s station, you can buy certain water bottles that indicate hourly how much you should be drinking.
  • Meal preparation- when you have a day off prepare healthy meals so you can put them in the fridge or freeze them – use online websites to find ideas.
  • Set a time or an alarm to be in bed for you can ensure you do get a good night’s sleep
  • Take time to relax- run a warm bath in the evening or read a book to help focus your mind on other things.
  • Get a diary- factor in time to see the family or friends, the key is planning in advance.
  • Walk part way to work or if you prefer evening walks, runs or cycles. Visit the local exercise centre and see if there are any gym glasses or outdoor free events, for example, local runs that you can participate in around work.

Do you have any ‘pro-tips’ or suggestions to share? Pop them in the comments section.


‘Student nurses graduate with £54k of debt, shouldn’t we pay them a wage instead?’

The Government claims students are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care”.



student nurses walking

Student nurses are the unseen workforce and vital to patient care.

While I am pleased for the thousands of students who will soon be starting their journey to become a registered nurse, it comes with a stark reminder.

In November 2015, ministers announced the NHS Student Bursary and tuition fee payment would be cut in a plan to increase the number of available student places.


Suffice to say, this hasn’t worked.

Instead, we have seen a consistent decline in the number of student nurses qualifying. Official figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show an overall decline in applications of 8% since 2015.

There is no debate that nurses need to be degree-level educated – but are student loans the best way to fill an ever-widing gap in our workforce?

The unseen workforce.

Student nurses are the unseen workforce and are sometimes vital to the delivery of safe, compassionate, person-centered care.

Completing over two-thousand hours of hand-on, direct clinical practice over three years – is it fair to ask them to accumulate up to £54,582 (plus 6.3% annual interest) of debt?

With a starting salary of £24,214, this is a debt the majority of nurses will never pay off.

The Government claims that because student nurses are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care” they need to be treated like all other higher education students.

While is it true that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) mandates that student nurses are considered ‘supernumerary’ – how realistic is this expectation? We hear stories of student nurses, trainee nursing associates and healthcare support workers being used to fill nurse staffing gaps on an almost daily basis.

A self-perpetuating cycle.

With an estimated 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS alone, health and social care services in England are stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.

Chronic under-investment in services has led to an increased demand on staff and subsequently affected recruitment and retention rates. Universities then fail to recruit enough nurses to meet the current demand and so the cycle continues.

The Royal College of Nursing has called on the Government to invest at least £1b per year into nursing education and come up with a long-term plan after its plan to increase numbers has failed to work.

Matching the proposed apprentice wage while student nurses are on placement would go some way towards alleviating the financial burden the government has placed on student nurses.

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A fresh start?



RCN Congress

I’m excited and I’m nervous. I qualified as a nurse just 15 months ago. I left a career in IT of “quite a few years” – I decided I needed a fresh start.

Now I’m sat on a train heading to my first ever RCN Congress. I’m a voting delegate and will be honoured to carry that responsibility for my branch.


I’m also excited to finally be meeting people that I’ve solely (or mostly) only ever connected with online.

Finally, I’m looking forward to the various debates and resolutions. Listening to the speakers will further inform my views and I might even share a thought or two myself – fortunately speaking in public does not generally worry me (I’ll be the one with the ukulele).

A brief glance back to this time last year when certain “irregularities” were noticed by some members around the pay deal and communications regarding it.

The train of events that followed uncovered a number of poor practices regarding transparency and accountability and our current council were elected to address these.

I also mentioned I am nervous.

Recently, it has become clear that further “irregularities” have occurred – and questions will be asked.

Tomorrow morning is the Royal College of Nursing’s Annual General Meeting – an opportunity for members to ask questions. An opportunity for the council to demonstrate its commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability. An opportunity for a fresh start.

I genuinely hope the answers to the questions I raise are clear and dispel the concerns many of us have.

And if they don’t? Well, that’s why I’m nervous.

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