If you've been accepted into nursing school and starting soon, CONGRATS. Welcome to a beautiful profession! It is the best, you will learn a crazy amount and meet amazing patients, families and colleagues. But be prepared. There will be tough days, horrible mentors/nurses and multiple times when you will want to quit. I can remember so many of student nurse shifts, some I wish I could erase forever and others I would do all again in a heartbeat. There are things I wish I knew when I first started, and I hope they help even a little...
Not Everyone Is Nice
It feels a bit depressing to start with this, but the list will get better I promise. What I mean is that not every nurse likes having a student, and some won't hide it unfortunately. Every shift you will be assigned to work with a nurse, hopefully the majority of the time this will be one of your mentors, who are aware of you and been through mentoring courses. Sometimes your mentors might not be in, so you have to work with someone else, who probably wasn't expecting a student. Don't take it personally! I took it so personally, being quite shy and timid, and I assumed I wasn't doing very well and became even quieter. In hindsight, it was just the nurse being poopy. You just have to be polite, do your best and promise yourself you'll be nicer when you're qualified. Focus on your patients and get the most learning experience you can.
Learn to Document
Oh my lord, this is so so important, I can't stress enough. Regardless of what some nurses say or do, you need to learn to document really well. It is your nursing pin you are protecting. I have seen nurses document 2 lines for a whole shift and if that ever came to court, they would have nothing to prove what they've done. There are different tools you can use, in ICU we use ABC and I know in other places they use SOAPIE - a post on these will becoming up. When you have spare time, read through a patient's notes and look at loads of entries, see what you think works well and describes the shift well. I encourage to write multiple entries for a shift, I try to write a few hours into the shift, in the afternoon and then before I go home, to try and not forget things. This doesn't always work with really busy shifts, so on my shift planner I jot down anything I want to remember later on, cannulas tissuing or big desats that needed bagging.
Its Okay to Not Know
Starting in a new environment can be so overwhelming, and some nurses, me included, can forget that students haven't been in our little bubble for very long. Don't worry if your don't know the answer to a question, or how to do a procedure...you can be sure I still don't know a lot of things. Have a little notebook, write it down and research it when you have a bit of spare time. Remember, you're in nursing school for a reason, to learn!
Nursing Friends are Special
There is something special about the friends you'll make in nursing school. They get you when you've had a rubbish shift with a horrible nurse, or understand the joy of doing something 'simple' for the first time. I try and explain things to my other half now, about how truly sick my patient was with certain shocking blood results and he's just like, yeah sounds bad but doesn't actually get it. I tell my friends from nursing school and they get how dramatic situations are. They are your support systems.
It Won't Last Forever
The feeling of being a lemon, and not being able to do things unsupervised all end eventually. And it'll be over before you know it. I am still shocked that I've been qualified for 2 years now, I feel like I just started as a student nurse yesterday. Enjoy the journey of having someone with you, sometimes I wish I had someone to be with on my shifts just to be there supporting me. Nursing school is such a fun experience, treasure it while you can.
I won't lie, night shifts were my least favourite shifts by miles when I first started my nursing degrees 4 years ago now. I would dread them so much, get myself into a state and hate every second. Nowadays, they're not my favourite, but I probably only hate them by one mile. It's the leaving that gets me thinking I don't want this to be my job, when the other half and his family are having takeaways or just chilling in their PJs and I've got to leave for work, eugh, such a sinking feeling. But I've realised there are so many good things about night shifts, and that'll be first tip...
Time doesn't stop, as bad as a shift is, or how tired you feel and don't think you can keep on going, morning time will always come, and you will hand over.
My night shift mantra, that I repeat to myself multiple times a night.
Always during university we were told to reflect on our placement days to grow as nurses. At the time I thought it was just more work to do and didn't really commit to doing them. Once I started on PIC and started having some horrible shifts I just decided to write about my day on my phone notes section. From start to finish, what I disliked, what other people said to me, and what made me feel good. I also didn't want to forget those traumatic shifts, like my first cardiac arrest, it's a bit of a nostalgic memory to replay. I can look back now and think, oh yeah I did that, but maybe I could've done this. Reflection as definitely helped me develop, if anything, of just seeing how far I've come since the beginning and knowing now how to handle situations I previously struggled with. My top tips for reflecting on shifts..
Quite a few people at work have little notebooks where they keep the most important information about looking after a PIC patient. I had a super cute notebook when I first started, and I wrote things out, and then! The unit changed some of their protocols, so I had incorrect stuff inside in. I'm a smidge of a perfectionist so couldn't handle that, thus, I created flashcards, that I can take in and out when things get updated. That's the joy of nursing that everything if fluid and changes to be better.
These are the first ones in the pack, my anatomy ones. I've got a few more to do but at the moment, this is them :)
Below are my favourite nursing books from my time as a student nurse and as a qualified ICU nurse. You don't need to spend a lot of money on books, you can use the university library, buy second hand and use the internet for the most up to date information. I invested in a few that I thought I would use over and over and it is true for the ones below..
1 & 2: The Anatomy & Physiology in Health & Illness and the Textbook of Children's Nursing were my ultimate two books during university. They were such a vital part in getting through placement and lectures. You can see in the Children's Nursing one how much I used it. I would take it to placement (very heavy but powered through) and read through for the patients I were helping that shift. And anatomy wise, it isn't my strongest area so this Ross & Wilson book made everything so simple.
3 & 4: The Incredibly Easy series is one of my favourite, I have to stop myself buying the whole collection. I got the fluids and critical care nursing ones a few months into starting on PIC to get better clued up. They are easy, simple, and store a lot of information. Only downfall, it is adult based, but that's like a lot of things when you're paeds trained.
5: Medical dictionary, goes without saying. Always useful to quickly check up on something; brief and easy explanations for pretty much everything you'll encounter.
6: A&P colouring book! Not essential, but fun. I hope colouring it all will help it stick in my head. Who knows? I shall hope.