You have made it this far…
One-in-five students drop-out of nursing courses in England on average, but an attrition rate of 30% is not uncommon and can be as high as 50% at some universities. Few students embark on a nursing degree expecting an easy option, but many aren’t prepared for how physically, emotionally and mentally demanding the combination of academic and clinical placements can be.
The fact that you have survived your first year is a huge achievement. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by how far you have to go (and the length of your new reading list), take a moment to reflect on how far you’ve come. Think about what you’ve learnt and the new skills you’ve used to make a difference to your patients’ and clients’ care.
‘The second-year blues can strike even the most able of students. If you find yourself doubting your knowledge or competence, be assured that you’re probably capable of more than you realise and recognise that we are all learning, wherever we are in our nursing career,’ says Steph Aiken, Head of Education at the RCN.
If you have a severe case of the wobbles, share your fears with others. Look for support from fellow students who are likely to be feeling the same way, as well as your mentor or personal tutor.
Juggling work and life commitments
You have successfully completed your first year, so you know what is expected and can begin to identify any challenges you’ve had or might face in balancing home/social commitments and study.
If you have struggled in the past, now is the time to make some changes.
Create a study calendar (either online, a dairy or wall planner) and try to organise your time around key assessment hand-in dates. Unexpected things happen, so be sure to build in some flexibility to your schedule.
If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for support from friends and family. Most of us don’t like to ask for help, but even a little assistance with childcare or everyday chores can make a big difference. If someone offers you help, take it!
Make the most of clinical placements
In your second year, you will be expected to build on what you have learnt and to develop your confidence in your nursing practice. You should look for opportunities to expand your knowledge and experience within your placements.
‘For example, you might have a discussion with your mentor to identify how you could follow a patient or client’s journey through the service; there might be opportunities for you to shadow another nurse or care professional,’ suggests Steph.
Think about what it is that you need to learn or practise and how that relates to the requirements in your practice assessment document, because this will help you to explain the value in you undertaking these different activities.
Expand your understanding
Understanding how different professionals work together is a vital component of patient care and second-year placements are a good opportunity to spend time with the multi-disciplinary team.
Ask to observe specialist nurses related to your placement and get to know other health care professionals working to support patients through their health care journey. Think about how nursing practice complements other professional’s work and how that enhances the patient or client’s experience.
Reflect on what you feel are gaps in your knowledge and skills-set and set yourself learning outcomes to address these. Once you have identified what you want to learn, share this with your mentor or personal tutor who can help you identify learning opportunities and translate them into achievable goals for the coming year.
Finally, remember that the patients or clients you meet on placement can teach you a great deal.
‘Try to find time to read about the issues and challenges that the patients or clients in your placement are likely to face and remember that you will also learn from them – they are often the experts about their health-related issues,’ says Steph.
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