Advice and development

An ABC of becoming a nurse

Charlotte Hall and Georgina Ledwith of the RCN Students Committee spell out some rules to help through training and the early days of being a registered nurse

Charlotte Hall and Georgina Ledwith of the RCN Students Committee spell out some rules to help through training and the early days of being a registered nurse

Picture: iStock

It is an exciting time to train as a nurse. People are living longer with more complex conditions, and nurses’ roles are changing and expanding to meet the needs of those we care for.

Looking back at my journey to becoming a registered nurse, I had plenty of ‘rabbit in the headlights’ moments when I didn’t know something, but there were also many times when I felt: ‘I was made for this’.

In my speech at my graduation, I compared nursing training to learning to ride a bike. We start slow and steady with stabilisers, then as we become more experienced, increasing our confidence and competence, we go faster. When you start your first job as a qualified nurse the stabilisers are off and you just have to keep going.

Patient assessment is a key nursing skill, with the ABCDE (airway, breathing, circulation, disability, exposure) approach commonly used in practice. A lot will be expected of you throughout your training, so here is my A to E approach to surviving your nursing degree.

Awareness: It is important to know yourself

You will learn a lot about yourself during your training so having a good level of self-awareness, including your values, will help you make decisions and better understand your reactions to various situations. One of my values is fairness. I found that if a decision was made that didn’t seem fair I would challenge it, even if the outcome would have been the same. It is also important to be aware of how best you learn ­– I am an auditory learner, so before reading a chapter of a text book I would watch a video about the topic on YouTube. This way I knew the key words to look for and had a better understanding of where the gaps in my knowledge were.

Budgeting: Consider how you will spend your time and money

Living on a student budget can be challenging. Everything can feel so expensive when you’re a student, even with discounts. The idea that students are ‘time rich but money poor’ doesn’t really apply to nursing students, who often feel both time poor and money poor. Learning to spend your money and time wisely are important life skills, and the next three years will be a great time to learn.

Community: Know who you can turn to in challenging times

Although we are always around people, nursing can sometimes be lonely, so it is important to have a good support network around you. Make time for your loved ones on your days off, and prioritise your relationships – even a phone call can mean so much. It is also important to support your peers and colleagues, and make sure you know who you can turn to if you need advice or support.

Discipline: Keeping going when the going gets tough

Nursing is both an art and a science. It requires a genuine desire to help people but also a sense of discipline. Your patients are relying on you so it is important to be resilient. Exercising self-discipline by getting an early night before a shift, for example, will help you get the most out of your placements. And be prepared for early starts.

Excitement: celebrate the start of your amazing career

Nursing is an exciting profession. To make the most out of your journey to becoming a registered nurse embrace every opportunity that comes your way and seek out new experiences. Above all, enjoy it.

Georgina_LedwithGeorgina Ledwith is vice-chair of the RCN Students Committee and student representative for the London region. She graduated from Buckinghamshire New University in September and now works at the Royal Brompton Hospital on the Capital Nurse Rotation.



Staying on the right path

Picture: iStock

S is for self-care

The number one rule for getting through your nurse training is good self-care – if you are not looking after yourself, how can you expect to look after others?

T is for time

Trying to balance your time as a nursing student can be challenging, so make sure you fit in time for friends and family around your clinical placements, course work and revision. If you feel you are struggling tell someone. Support is available if you need it.

U is for utilise

As a nursing student you will have many opportunities to engage with different aspects of the profession, so make sure you use them. From clinical skills to publishing articles and travelling to conferences and engaging in politics, the list is endless. Make the most of your supernumerary status and explore as much as you can.

D is for doubt

It is inevitable that you will stumble and experience self-doubt, but this can be a good thing. It will help improve your practice and help you to grow in an ever-changing profession. By embracing the challenge when things go wrong, we develop and become stronger from our mistakes.

E is for exercise

As a nursing student it can be easy to lose sight of your own needs in terms of health and well-being. Try to take regular exercise and eat a well-balanced diet, and limit the late-night essay snacks where possible.

N is for nurture

It is important for you to be nurtured in your learning, but you also have a responsibility to help your student peers and nursing colleagues as well. Look out for each other and learn from each other – we can all learn something new from others’ expertise and experiences.

T is for trust

Building trusting relationships with your fellow nursing students, academics and mentors is vital. Always practising honestly and with integrity will put you on the right path and help you stay on it.

Charlotte Hall is chair of the RCN Students Committee. She graduated from the University of the West of England in June and now works as a staff nurse at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.




This article is for subscribers only