My 11 top tips for starting your Nursing Degree

I can’t actually believe I’m heading into my 2nd year of nursing in a couple of weeks, there is still so much I want to share with you about year one and the amazing experiences I have had and the extraordinary people I have met.

For now I wanted to have a quick look back at the tips and pointers I can share with anyone heading into nursing for the first time like me a year ago. Whether you are a mature student like me, or if you have any healthcare experience or not, hopefully a few of things may either make sense to you or serve you well.

1.       Invest in a good anatomy and physiology book and try to read a bit every day. Focus on a chapter and use index cards to make notes, this makes revising down the line so much easier.

2.       Don’t rush out to buy all the books – the university library is well stocked and the chances are you end up buying a load of books to have everything on your reading list at hand but use the library first and spend on the books you find the most useful.

3.       Obvious one but – invest in a good pair of shoes, Clarks are great despite being very ‘uncool’, you begrudge spending a large amount on probably the ugliest shoes you have ever owned, but trust me every penny will be worth in 12 hours into a shift on placement.

4.       Spend £20 signing up for RCN membership and an NUS card. The RCN is a great resource and you also have access to their library. NUS gives you lots of discounts that will come in handy when the pennies are tight. Always look out for student discounts, lots of places offer it and it’s always worth asking, it won’t last forever!! Also Spotify and Apple music offer 50% subscriptions for students as well as Adobe if you’ve got a creative side outside of nursing. I think there is an Amazon for students too – look into everything you can get discounted, it only lasts three years…

5.       Get yourself a lever arch file with file dividers and a plastic folder. You will get lots of print outs and handouts, the plastic folder allows you to transport from uni to home and file those handouts in categories ‘biology’ ‘maths’ etc or you suddenly end up with a mish mash of handouts and you can’t place the thing you need when you need it.

6.       Invest in a rucksack, with padded straps – Now I’m not a rucksack girl, the thought of having one actually made me feel a bit sick but you have to just give into that – you need it. What you learn very quickly in nursing – it’s how precious your back and shoulders are. Carrying books and your uniform to and from uni and things like your lunch and your placement book when on placement suddenly you find yourself loaded like a donkey most days. I was so reluctant to give in to the rucksack that I bought one that looked as stylish as a rucksack can look but the thin straps just pulled on my shoulders and now for this year I’ve given into the padded straps for my donkey walks!

7.       Be prepared – and I mean this in every sense of the word. Be prepared time wise, always give yourself extra time, travel and traffic can just be hell sometimes. With everything online these days, always be prepared for your lectures and classes, know what you are going into and do some background work so you can have a better understanding and it all makes more sense in the lecture or class and you are able to ask any questions you might have. Basically know what you are doing and where you are going before you get there – both at uni and on placement.

8.       Eat well and keep hydrated – especially whilst on placement, but just generally, you will spend less if you are prepared lunch wise and don’t have to splash out on uni or café food and you will make better choices, being healthy and well is the only thing that’s going to get you through nursing. Always carry a bottle of water with you, it’s free and you will drink it! A small bottle of water in the canteen is usually about £1.50 and it’s just a stupid waste of money, just fill your bottle!

9.       Take advantage of the student union even if you are not living on campus. They are a great resource of help but our uni also organises lots of free trips and activities as well as classes on campus that give you great things to do and learn and a chance to meet people, so it’s worth finding out what’s on. They will also help you organise you 18+ student oyster card if you are London based so you can get 30% discount on travel which is huge and really useful.

10.   Don’t be afraid to ask – to ask your teachers if you don’t understand, to ask the advice of your classmates, to ask what something means on placement, just ask. Starting uni and placement can be really daunting but you’re lucky to be surrounded by nurses and future nurses and we are a special breed – even if I do say so myself. Helping people is what we do, don’t forget that and be intimidated or overwhelmed when everything is new and maybe not so shiny? Ask for help and support if you need it, don’t suffer in silence.

11.    As soon as you have your place – get your bank account sorted – shop around for the best deals with all the banks, get the maximum overdraft, not that I’m encouraging overdraft spending but even if you don’t use it you will know it’s there. Some of the banks offer gifts or incentives like Amazon vouchers and free rail card, so chose the offer that suits you but also a bank that has a branch near where you live for your convenience.

GOOD LUCK!!!

Image Credit – Jane B

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