Only fellow student nurses and those closest to you can ever really appreciate the demands of being a student nurse. We spend half of our time in university; completing assignments, exams, skills, OSCEs and a dissertation, and half of our time out in placement; completing 2300 practical hours across the three years and an online portfolio. We don’t get long holidays like other students may do. We get weekends, long days, nights and bank holidays. We have to adapt quickly. Just as we get into a routine and feel like we’re sailing instead of barely keeping afloat, our environment will change again. We have days in which we come home elated, full of excitement about the patient we cared for, the difference we made and others in which we barely make it until the end of the shift before we break down and cry.
Outside of university we also have other commitments. Most of us have part time jobs to cover the cost of car parking, food and, in some cases, to support a family. We have our own family to spend time with, our pets to care for, friends to catch up with, an hour of exercise to do each day, two litres of water to drink, eight hours of sleep to catch up on and then try to squeeze in some free time for ourselves.
It can be overwhelming, stressful and feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in a day (and that’s if everything is going well! Let’s not even mention if something happens in your family, your car breaks down or you become ill yourself!). To all of the first years currently experiencing this, I understand and although it won’t change across your training, you will get better at managing your time and prioritising your mile long to-do list!
I have come up with these top tips to help you stop the struggle of the juggle:
1. Manage your time and stay organised – this prevents unnecessary stress and unexpected things popping up to surprise you.
2. Surround yourself with people who make you happy and understand – we don’t get much time off so when you do catch up with people you want them to truly make you happy but also be understanding that shifts change so you may cancel plans or work such varied shift patterns that you might not see each other for months. It’s also important that you feel that you have someone to talk to. We spend so much of our time caring for everyone else that we often forget to care for ourselves.
3. Don’t feel guilty or upset with yourself for getting overwhelmed – it happens to us all and only shows that you’re dedicated to the course and want to do your best, don’t be too hard on yourself.
4. Pencil in time for yourself – you must make sure that you put aside a few minutes each day to do something you enjoy. Whether that be reading a book, exercising, having a bath, watching your favourite show, baking or listening to music. This gives you time to recharge, reflect and stops you from becoming grumpy!
5. Remember why you started – you are on this course for a reason. Hold onto that reason tight when things get tough.
I hope that you have found these tips useful or just read this and thought ‘I’m not alone’! We are all muddling our way through and we will get there!