Nursing studies

Second-year studies amid a global pandemic: making up for missed placements

Online lectures and lessons are now the norm, but can our clinical skills meet expectations?

Online lectures and lessons are now the norm, but can our clinical skills meet expectations?

The start of the second year of my nursing degree was not what I imagined.

I should have finished my first clinical placement in September before starting the academic term in October. The placement would have provided me with some nursing skills and a degree of confidence, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant it was cancelled and this learning opportunity lost.

Lack of clinical experience made me feel like an imposter

As the only clinical placement of my first year had also been cancelled, I felt like an impostor rather than a nursing student. My clinical skills were close to zero and my confidence shattered

Online lectures and lessons are now the norm, but can our clinical skills meet expectations?

Illustration showing a student sitting at a desk watching an online lecture
Picture: iStock

The start of the second year of my nursing degree was not what I imagined.

I should have finished my first clinical placement in September before starting the academic term in October. The placement would have provided me with some nursing skills and a degree of confidence, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant it was cancelled and this learning opportunity lost.

Lack of clinical experience made me feel like an imposter

As the only clinical placement of my first year had also been cancelled, I felt like an impostor rather than a nursing student. My clinical skills were close to zero and my confidence shattered to pieces.

Plus, having forgotten much of my first-year learning during the four-month summer break, my knowledge was also patchy.

Although I passed all my first-year assignments with high marks and managed to get 80% of my practice document signed off in the first health visiting placement, I still did not feel like I was ready or competent enough to be a second-year nursing student.

Our academic term resumed at the beginning of October, and we started our virtual lectures. As much of the first year of our course had been undertaken online, learning through a virtual classroom was familiar to my cohort, and we took it in our stride.

It is amazing how people adapt; what seemed such a hurdle in March was no longer a problem in October.

‘I am quite timid, so… the chat function in our online lessons platform has been a godsend, enabling me to ask questions and make contributions where I would not normally’

I enjoyed learning online because I could work from the comfort of my home office. There was no hassle with delayed trains or traffic jams, and I was also able to take my daughter to school and pick her up.

Most of our lectures started at 10am and finished by 3pm, which was convenient for school runs. The rest of the material was delivered as pre-recorded sessions, meaning we could listen to them at a convenient time.

Thanks to good organisation, ensuring I was up to date with everything wasn’t a challenge and I even completed two assignments almost a month before deadline.

A learning environment that works better for some students

Although some might argue that online lectures do not offer the same level of participation and engagement as in-person teaching, they work well for me; I am quite timid, so my contributions in lecture halls have often been ignored when people who are louder or more opinionated are also trying to get their views across.

The chat function in our online lessons platform has been a godsend, enabling me to ask questions and make contributions I would not normally have a chance to. Being a touch typist helps, but I feel less intimidated by some of my fellow students than I would in real life.

Despite the second national lockdown, we managed to have a few practical, in-person sessions where we learned some much-needed nursing skills and practised on mannequins. Even though we had to wear personal protective equipment, socially distance and bring our own food, everyone enjoyed the hands-on learning.

The experience showed how desperate we were for clinical placements and how rusty our nursing skills had become. Even taking a pulse or carrying out the basic steps of assessing an unwell child proved rather challenging for most of us.

Students currently working as healthcare support workers were at a greater advantage because of their practice experience. Many of my group do bank work to get some clinical practice, but my childcare challenges and home commitments don’t allow for much outside my studies.

Transitioning into your second year: what you need to know

  • Try not to feel overwhelmed by the increase in workload and academic expectations. With the right support you can get through it. Focus on your end goal of becoming a nurse and try to keep that in mind
  • Think about what you have achieved so far If entering your second year seems daunting, consider where you were last year and compare it to where you are now. Time goes fast on this course and you will have qualified before you know it, so enjoy your time as a student
  • Do not be discouraged by the expected level of academic writing Although you are required to extend your critical analysis skills in the second year, your essay writing will develop naturally from your first year. You have probably used a lot of critical analysis already in your year one assignments, so just continue to build on this
  • Focus on your resilience and adaptability Even if your first year was disrupted by COVID-19 and your placements were cancelled, do not despair. Staff in the practice environment are aware of this, and the resilience and adaptability you demonstrate will be something to put on your CV
  • Prioritise your physical and mental health Both will help you get through your degree, and even more once you embark on your nursing career. Protect your well-being and make time for your own needs

The support students will need to catch up on clinical skills

Due to the challenges of COVID-19, our first clinical placements of our second year were scheduled for January 2021, and not allocated until the start of December 2020. We have all all been placed in a specific area with one of our local trusts, which is a big relief.

Although we are excited and eager to go, we are also feeling anxious. The health visiting placement in my first year was great for knowledge-based learning, but not for practising clinical nursing skills, so I fear I will be out of my depth.

There are certain expectations of second-year students, and I am worried I will not be able to fulfil these. I only hope that my practice supervisors and assessor will understand this and help me acquire the skills I need to in my second year.

My placement is on a day case ward for children having surgical or medical procedures. The beauty of being on a paediatric day case ward is that children are remarkably adaptable and bounce back very quickly from whatever discomfort is thrown at them, even general anaesthesia.

As a children’s nurse, you are providing nursing care one minute and playing a game the next. I only hope I will be good at both.


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