The next chapter: Starting a new academic year

Last week I was going to post a blog about how I was feeling about starting third year but feeling terrified was my overriding feeling, and no one needs that kind of negativity, right?! I decided to wait until my first day back to write my feelings. So, here goes.

Firstly, I am exhausted! Woah, information overload! But not too exhausted to write to you lovely bunch so may be exaggerating a little! Today we were afforded an incredible opportunity to speak to trusts from all over the country and learn what they want from students applying for jobs. I felt anxious entering the room but left university feeling inspired. I feel like I can be anything I want to be! The trouble is, I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet. I know what my key interests are and know that I want to consolidate my learning in my first role as a qualified nurse but there isn’t currently a specialism screaming out at me. That’s okay though, isn’t it? Here I am referring to this as ‘trouble’. Pardon? This is a PRIVILEGE!

I received encouraging feedback today from representatives from different trusts, as well as from my colleagues. We’ve talked through the benefits of keeping a professional profile and throughout that discussion I flicked through some of my written feedback… Wow! I had forgotten about some of these kind and inspiring words.

I’ve complied a little list of pick-me-up reminders influenced by today’s activities and how I was feeling just last week. I thought I would share them and maybe you might take something from them too:

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  • Try to recognise whether I’m thinking rationally
  • Read over feedback and realise my potential
  • Focus on the positives. I have another year of study and a future of continued professional development – even my weaknesses can be positives!
  • Pat myself on the back. I have shown myself I can do so well already
  • Remind myself why I wanted to nurse and reignite those drivers
  • Get organised. Taking some time now for good planning will save a lot of time and worry in the long run. Time to get everything in that shiny new diary!
  • Take some time to digest ‘information overload’ – break it into more manageable pieces
  • Remember that it is okay to feel a bit overwhelmed – I’m not the only one feeling this way. I must remember to be good to myself and do something that is not nursing-related from time-to-time… Starting this weekend!

Now I approach this academic year feeling like I can achieve anything if I work hard enough. I’ve got this! And you have too!

Special thanks to today’s speakers, exhibitors and organisers for a motivating and informative day.

Padding out your Portfolio

As a student nurse, you are expected to keep a portfolio/professional profile to remember all the amazing things you’ve done, and it’s a good way to show why an employer should hire you.

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My portfolio baby (complete with an unfortunate stain)

Alongside lots of other things like reflections (see Natasha’s blog post), certificates are a good thing to show how great a student nurse you are. Certificates in your portfolio are the equivalent of gold stars on a chart. You’ve really earned them, and they look pretty.

You can get these wonderful holy grails by attending workshops, training events, and educational lectures through university or placement. For example, a few weeks ago I attended the clinical skills event organized by the HEAL society (Healthcare Alliance). And it was amazing!

Alongside with healthcare related students, we learnt skills such as a swallow assessment, how to use an Ophthalmoscope, Neonatal resus, how and why crushing tablets is necessary, and I got to interact with a simulation man! These activities were chosen because they are quite specialized activities, which you might not normally get the chance to learn about. So events like these give you the chance to get that practice in! Plus, most of them were taught by fellow students (speech & language therapists, ophthalmologists, medical students, nurses and midwives!), and peer education is always great! The free pizza was also a bonus..

It’s super easy to get involved with this kind of stuff- you just have to keep an eye out! Most of the events are advertised through your university email, but they can also pop up through word of mouth. So idle chit-chat with your course mates might just lead to some professional development!

Surviving Extended Semester

You’ve done it, you’ve made it through exams, A&P is over and you’re still standing. Everyone is packing up to go home, Parklife and Pangaea are on BUT; you are a student nurse…

Pangaea is an excellent way to blow off steam and show your creative side making a banging costume

Pangaea is an excellent way to blow off steam and show your creative side making a banging costume

Before you panic, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you can’t go out and blow off some steam with your peers before they go off on sunny holidays. Whilst they’re still there it is essential you make the most of it. Block placement is an amazing opportunity and your first real taster of life as a full-time Nurse, you work a 37.5 hour week and in my case these hours could only be made on weekdays so Social activities were strictly a weekend venture.

It’s a 9 week placement which sounds like forever, 315 hours total, it is daunting but I say this with complete honesty that it completely flies by. Once you get into the swing of your new placement its such a breeze, you go in, you learn, you experience such amazing and interesting things and meet such vibrant characters and help people when they are feeling their most vulnerable. You may get home exhausted but then Netflix is always there for you.

It is tough seeing your friends from other courses posting photos on Instagram of their tanned legs on some beach in Greece, when you’re spending your evenings washing your uniform, making your packed lunches and binge watching Nurse Jackie. But each day on placement you will learn something or experience something new so use this time to REFLECT.

Even Mulan struggled with reflections

Even Mulan struggled with reflections

By reflect I don’t mean gaze out of your window staring into the middle distance and contemplating how much fun it was pulling out 30 staples from a patient’s abdomen. I mean put pen to paper and get some thoughts down about your day in practice. Everything goes in your Portfolio and is valuable to help document your progression through the course and is really helpful to consolidate in your head what it is that has happened in that day.

Think of it as a more professional diary. If you don’t like what you’ve written, don’t put it in the portfolio but even the process of taking your experience and working through the Gibbs reflective cycle can be really rewarding and entertaining. Also the more reflections you have he more you can show off to your AA and just look generally impressive to everyone and keeping yourself busy when you get home makes each day go faster than the last and before you know it you’ll be posting those photos on Instagram and enjoying a well-deserved rest.