Advice and development

How to make the most of your time as a nursing student

Recent graduate Florence Taylor has advice on making the most of life as a nursing student.

Recent graduate Florence Taylor has advice on making the most of life as a nursing student.

Embarking on a nursing degree can be daunting – with its combination of assignments, exams and placements – but nursing is hugely rewarding too.

If you haven’t worked in health care before, embarking on your first placement can feel overwhelming. With a huge variety of tasks, including washing patients, calming angry relatives and dressing difficult wounds, it is easy to feel out of your depth.

If you are unsure about anything, do not hesitate to ask, even if you think it is a stupid question.

Throw yourself into every opportunity and take advantage of the fact that, as a student, you have extra time to talk to patients.

As your experience of caring for patients grows, so will your confidence. Nursing practice is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the population, and even the most experienced nurses are still learning new things all the time.

Unsurprisingly, illness affects everyone differently, and it is likely you will find yourself dealing with the whole spectrum of human emotions.

Some patients will be endlessly grateful for anything you do, while others might seem hostile, despite your best efforts. Try to put yourself in their shoes, even if you feel you are being blamed for everything.

One aspect I had not anticipated before starting my course is how drained and exhausted I would feel sometimes, for example when a patient you have been looking after dies.

It is important to find a release, such as exercise, that allows you to recharge your batteries and take care of your own emotional wellbeing.

Another method of coping with the stresses of academic and placement work is keeping a reflective diary. This is a valuable way of reflecting on an incident or experience, and it can help you understand what you might do differently next time.

Another issue that first-year students often worry about is life outside nursing. You will have many more hours than the history student you share your halls with, so you have to be creative, and make the most of the huge variety of societies and clubs available.


On clinical placements, choose your role models wisely. Sometimes the mentors who are the strictest and scariest are the ones from whom you can learn the most. Mentors, along with your course mates, can help you with your coursework. There can be a lot of work, so stay calm.

The past three years have been the most challenging of my life. But they have also been the most exciting and fun. I have met many inspirational people – patients, colleagues, and friends – whom I will never forget.

So whether you are starting your course, or just a new year, I wish you all the best of luck.

About the author

Florence Taylor is staff nurse at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.



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