Latest newsletter for students
Published on 11 February 2022
Let’s talk about student mental health
Our latest student newsletter features a guest article by student nurse Isabelle Dunn on student mental health. Isabelle told us about moments in her education that made her feel overwhelmed, how this was heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic and why it’s important for students to support each other.
It’s 4.30am and I’ve just woken up for my first shift on placement as a student nurse. I know the name of the ward I need to go to and that I’m going to see Covid-19 first-hand. I don’t know how anyone else is feeling because we haven’t spoken about it. This is all entirely new and I hope that I’m up to the job.
That’s how I felt when I started my placement and I’m sure many other health and care students can relate to this. I felt both excited and worried. I knew that nursing would be a rewarding career. But I never could have imagined how much experience I’d gain! I’ve gained new perspectives on the circle of life by working with individuals from all sorts of communities to people who have diverse illnesses.
We can feel overwhelmed
Our curriculum can be demanding and stressful. We work 37.5 hour weeks to complete the minimum hours our universities require. There can also be financial worries. It can be easy for some student nurses to fall into the pattern of working additional hours to fund themselves.
So, many student nurses take to working in temporary staffing departments as nursing assistants as well. I’ve done this myself. One additional shift a week is an extra 12.5 hours. On top of writing reflections, researching new experiences on wards and writing essays, it can get overwhelming. The additional time spent in hospitals comes with the advantage of gaining more clinical experience and improved practise understanding. But we can feel overworked at times too.
Everyone felt overwhelmed and stressed at times during this pandemic. This feeling of stress and anxiety has become normal for so many people over the past year. Maybe that’s a reason why fewer student nurses are asking for help.
You’re more than just the marks you get in assignments and exams
I felt most stressed when I caught coronavirus from the ward where I was on placement. I couldn’t go on placement for 75 hours and I knew I had to make up that time. But I gritted my teeth and worked very hard for my second placement. Thankfully I managed to boost my number of completed hours. But I know many students also have this concern.
Remember that you’re more than just the marks you get in assignments and exams. Your experience isn’t only measured by the number of placement hours you’ve completed. It’s so important to look after your mental wellbeing, too. And to reach out for help if you need it.
It’s easy to think of yourself as just a number when you’re one of 350 in a virtual lecture and don’t know how other students are feeling. This has been an unusual year for us all, teaching staff and students alike. Lecturers have gone above and beyond to reach out to students. They really welcome and actively seek any questions and engagement on the curriculum. We all had to get used to online learning, but we adjusted to the new situation and made it work the best we could. The pandemic has been a test of resilience for everyone.
Personally what kept my head above water during this pandemic was taking time out and doing things that make me happy. I took time to contact old friends and focus on what I really value. There are a number of podcasts focusing on mental health that I enjoyed listening to. In particular the You are not a frog, a podcast by Dr Rachel Morris. It's great as it focuses on the healthcare field. I’ve also been watching more psychology TED talks online. These have been illuminating.
My first year of study has been a delight. My placements have helped me to make fond memories and grow as a person. I’ve built strong relationships with professionals and improved my communication skills. The confidence and skills that nursing has given me are for life and I know that I will be able to continue to grow them.
I’m excited to see what the next year of my nursing education holds! I like that there is a combination of science modules and holistic care. Core nursing clinical skills like venepuncture are taught which means I have more opportunities to be supported through my learning.
If this past year has taught me anything, it’s the importance of human interaction and connection. For example, it’s to the credit of many nursing professionals that we often feel so welcomed in our placements.
So whether you’re a health and care student or not, my main piece of advice would be to reach out. We have to look after those who are living closely to us. A smile can save a life just as powerfully as the next wonder drug. If you’re starting university soon or recently took up a nursing programme, why not send a couple of new course mates a message? We’re all in the same boat and the only people who understand what it’s like to be a student nurse, are student nurses.
What else can I expect when I read the student newsletter?
There are two more guest articles in this edition. Louise Thomas, a second year nursing associate student, reflects on her first year of studies and placements, and why the apprenticeship route was the best fit for her. Community midwife Hana Young shares her words of wisdom for current and future midwifery students.
You’ll also find the latest news on our standards for supervision and assessment, how the continued use of out Covid-19 recovery standards ensures a flexible use of simulation, and insights on the growth of the nursing and midwifery professions in our latest registration data report.
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