Nursing studies

The apps, podcasts, books and key resources every nursing student must access

Lecturers and students recommend where to look for information and support

Lecturers and students recommend where to look for information and support, covering topics from ethics to budgeting

New students can face a bewildering array of books, podcasts, apps and websites designed to support various aspects of their learning. But what really works? Students and lecturers share their favourite resources.

Study aids

The Nerdy Nurse on Instagram

Adult nursing student Vanessa Anthony recommends The Nerdy Nurse on Instagram. ‘There are flashcards, which are really useful for information you need to remember,’ says Ms Anthony, who has just finished her course at Greenwich University.

The Forest app: grow trees as you learn

Mental health nursing student Alex Richardson suggests the Forest app to help maintain concentration

Lecturers and students recommend where to look for information and support, covering topics from ethics to budgeting

Picture: iStock

New students can face a bewildering array of books, podcasts, apps and websites designed to support various aspects of their learning. But what really works? Students and lecturers share their favourite resources.

Study aids

The Nerdy Nurse on Instagram

Adult nursing student Vanessa Anthony recommends The Nerdy Nurse on Instagram. ‘There are flashcards, which are really useful for information you need to remember,’ says Ms Anthony, who has just finished her course at Greenwich University.

The Forest app: grow trees as you learn

Mental health nursing student Alex Richardson suggests the Forest app to help maintain concentration while you’re studying, preventing you from becoming distracted.

At the start of your study time, you plant a tree, which continues to grow while you focus on your work but shrivels and dies if you start scrolling on your phone before the allotted time. ‘At the end, you can plant your tree in a forest, which gets bigger and bigger so you can see how hard you’re working,’ says Mr Richardson, who has just completed his course at Canterbury Christ Church University. ‘I found it a really good way to stay motivated.’

Starting your first placement

Lenka Huntley, who has just finished the second year of a children’s nursing degree at Brighton University, recommends The Student Nurse Handbook: A Survival Guide by Bethann Siviter. Using humour, case studies, hints and tips, this book helps you to make the most of clinical placements, alongside other key topics such as coping with stress, understanding nursing jargon and creating a portfolio.

‘It has a bit about everything and includes a section on placements,’ says Ms Huntley. ‘It was recommended to us on the RCN stand at freshers’ week and it was passed around to everyone on the course. When you’re starting out it’s good to read, so you know what’s ahead.’

Managing medicines

There are two standard texts, advises senior lecturer in adult nursing at the University of South Wales Clare Churcher – the British National Formulary (BNF) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Professional Guidance on the Administration of Medicines in Healthcare Settings, co-produced with the RCN.

‘This is what we use in practice,’ says Ms Churcher.

For a simple guide, students appreciate Medicines Management for Nurses at a Glance says Ms Churcher. This provides a general introduction, rather than a detailed discussion. ‘It’s really easy to read and students use it a lot,’ she says.

Her personal go-to is Pathophysiology and Pharmacology in Nursing (Transforming Practice Series), which offers an integrated introduction to the biology of diseases and the therapeutic agents that are used to manage them.

‘It takes a specific look at different areas,’ says Ms Churcher. ‘I can look up an illness or disease and the different pharmacological treatments for it are provided, along with an explanation of what they do,’ she says. ‘There are also multiple-choice questions at the end so you can check your learning. This is a book you can dip in and out of as needed.’

Ethical considerations

For those seeking a straightforward and short overview of ethical theory, associate professor and reader in law and ethics at London South Bank University Louise Terry recommends Mel Thompson’s Ethical Theory. The book provides an overview of the major ethical theories found in Western philosophy, with quotations from original sources and examples of how the theories may be applied to a range of contemporary moral issues.

‘I’ve used this since the first edition, so for more than 20 years, with a wide variety of students,’ says Dr Terry. ‘Many people have told me that they didn’t understand ethical theory until they read this. There can be a tendency to make it overcomplicated, using words and phrases that few people understand, but that just makes nursing students think they’ll never get their head around it. This uses language that’s accessible to all.’

For an international perspective on current ethical issues, Dr Terry suggests The Nursing Ethics blog, managed by two professors at Ryerson University in Canada. ‘At times, we can be too UK-centric,’ she says. ‘There is a lot we can learn from other countries where nurses are facing many of the same challenges.’

Anatomy and physiology

Ms Huntley suggests exploring the range of free videos from The Khan Academy, many of which are recommended by her lecturers. ‘It’s useful for anyone studying biology,’ she says. Skills for Health also provides useful online training on a variety of topics. ‘It includes some challenging questions, so you can test your knowledge,’ she adds.

For a more light-hearted way to learn, Ms Anthony recommends the Nurse’s Anatomy and Physiology Colouring Book. Billed as a fun and easy way to study the topic, the authors say it’s the perfect antidote to hours of dense reading, while colouring is a proven learning technique, which helps your brain to make deep learning connections.

The power of networking

Twitter is a great tool for connecting with others and sharing best practice, says Natalie Elliott, who has just retired as team lead for @WeStudentNurses as she is about to finish her degree in adult nursing at Glasgow Caledonian University.

With more than 19,000 followers, WeStudentNurses is a peer support network, which hosts regular tweet chats, including monthly self-care. ‘Being a nursing student is tough,’ says Ms Elliott. ‘It’s lovely to be part of a community where people are going through the same things as you.

She recommends starting slowly when using social media and being professional at all times. ‘Dip your toes in the water, even just replying to someone saying you agree. Eventually, you’ll start asking for opinions, information or support.’

Final-year adult nursing student at Dundee University Brian Webster recommends The Student Nurse Project, an online supportive community where students and newly qualified nurses can discuss current nursing issues with their peers and more experienced staff from around the globe. Tweet chats are held a couple of times a month and the site features blogs on subjects such as ‘reflections on my first ever placement’ and ‘eating disorders and nursing’.

Money matters

The government’s step-by-step guide to undergraduate student finance should be your first port of call, says Ms Anthony. It includes information for new, continuing and part-time students, with information on extra help, eligibility for funding and how to apply.

Student Beans highlights discounts for students

The Complete University Guide’s Budgeting webpage is also full of helpful tips and advice, including how to save money, what your essential costs are likely to be and creating a working budget.

Make sure you exploit all the discounts available to students, says Mr Webster. He recommends the websites Student Beans and UNiDAYS, which list a wide variety of discounts on food and drink, clothes, technology and phones among others.

He also suggests planning meals for when you’re on placement, using the BBC Student Food website which includes £1 dinners, food for when you’re broke and meals with just five ingredients. He also adds his own advice: ‘If you buy a cup of coffee every day, it can be as much as £4, so take your own.’

Keeping motivated

Retaining the Passion podcast page

Understanding the past can inspire nurses to provide better care now, says Ms Anthony. She recommends Past Caring, a series of free, 45-minute podcasts created by the RCN Library and Archive team, which includes episodes on pandemics, women’s health and public health. ‘It gives you a historical perspective on current issues,’ she says.

She also suggests Retaining the Passion, an award-winning free podcast hosted by newly qualified nurses Clare Manley and Craig Davidson. Together they discuss their journeys through nursing, shining a light on key issues affecting both the profession and wider society by speaking to various guests. Episodes cover topics such as leaders and followers, asylum-seeker health, dying matters and COVID-19’s effect on nursing.


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