Richard Bannister is a 3rd year Mental Health Nursing student based at our Chelmsford campus, here he offers advice for those starting a nursing course.
Starting a three-year nursing course is an exciting, yet daunting, time for most new students. This is especially true for mature students who may be entering higher education after many years away from any kind of study. Before you start, make sure you are prepared by doing the following:
- Make sure you attend the university’s introductory meetings for new students, especially those held by your own faculty.
- Reduce stress by making sure your ﬁnancial and other affairs are in order. Ensure any previous employment is concluded. Have all your documents ready, such as driving licence, bank cards, contacts book, national insurance number and passport.
- Activate your university email account and use this routinely to access emails. The university will use this to contact you.
- If you are moving closer to your university, register with a local doctor.
Once your course starts, support from your university and new colleagues will ease you into your studies. Tempting as it may sound, do not buy too many books too early on. Instead, liaise with the university about essential texts and then discuss what you need with your tutor once term starts. Many books are available free online via the library login. If in doubt, ask.
Your ﬁrst assignment can be daunting, but there is no greater advice than to listen to your tutor’s guidance on structure. Preparation is the key to success. Read and re-read the learning outcomes and, if in doubt, ask. Talk to the university library staff, because no one knows more about accessing online journal databases and reference lists.
Your ﬁrst placement is arguably more daunting than your ﬁrst assignment, but it is a wonderful experience. For many students, it marks the real starting point of the course. One simple step can reduce the stress of starting a placement and demonstrates your professionalism: make contact with your placement mentor before your placement starts. This establishes the relationship before you arrive on the ﬁrst day and highlights your commitment and dedication.
Equally important is your relationship with your patients or clients. In my ﬁeld of mental health, a client is not a schizophrenic – he or she is a person with schizophrenia. The illness is just a small part of what makes them who they are, so think holistically. They are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters; try to see the person ﬁrst and foremost. And just because a client wishes to tell you their life story, it does not mean you have to recount yours in response. Be professional, listen and talk to them.
Finally, organisation is key to success. Plan your study days and time carefully, leaving time for yourself. Have conﬁdence and do not be afraid of constructive criticism – you will receive a lot of it. Nursing study is hard work, and a healthy balance between study and you time is essential.