Dear student nurse – Guest blog by NQN

Dear student nurse,

A little letter of advice and encouragement along with the real story of nursing education. Heartfelt,  if slightly tongue in cheek wisdom, from a Newly Qualified Nurse (NQN) who has been there, done that, and got the nice blue uniform…


1. There is no place for pride in the nursing course

 It’s no use trying to be superman / woman and go through university without support or assistance of any kind – it’s not going to happen. Everyone has to ask for help from time to time; it’s not a weakness nor means you’re going to fail or whatever else that puts you off raising your hand and going ‘HELP!’

  • If you get Disabled Students Allowance (DSA), use it.
  • If the library runs study session, get yourself to them.
  • If your lecturer asks if there are any questions, ask one!

Mistakes are how we learn. At some point or another you have to bite the bullet and go “I will do this” even if everything inside is telling you that you can’t. We have safe times to practice things, utilise it and you’ll be thankful for it when you find yourself needing the skill in ‘real’ life!


2. Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) isn’t unfair

 I’m not going to lie, university is hard. Utterly worth it, but hard. If you have a Specific Learning Difficulty such as, dyslexia, dyspraxia Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, or mental health or a long term health condition then DSA can step in and help alleviate some of the pressure.

 Please, please if you are entitled to DSA – use it.

 As a student I received DSA for dyslexia and dyspraxia. Essays and exams were the stuff of nightmares but fortunately I had the most understanding study skills tutor ever!

It’s there to help and ultimately assist you in becoming a nurse. It isn’t unfair or cheating or whatever else people may say when they don’t fully understand what it is.

 DSA supported me to become a nurse and I am very, very, thankful that it was there for me.


 3. Clinical skills are scary for everyone

 The first time I held an injection needle in my hand was as a 1st year on a rehab ward. The nurse supervising me was quite possibly the best example of a mentor you could get. I was terrified, and doing my best to get out of it, but she wasn’t letting me off that easily. She sent me off on break and when I got back she told me I was going to go round and do them with her. I felt like walking off the ward and not coming back!

I came, she guided, and supported, and by the end of the shift I had done 8!


The skill was scary, but the kindness and support of the nurse meant that I felt able to do it despite my own fears that I’d snap the needle or harm a patient. We will all have different skills that we fear, but that is utterly normal. Remember everyone has to start somewhere and by the end of your three years you will be signed off as competent. Start by ensuring that you are safe and have appropriate supervision, you won’t go far wrong.


 4. There is no essay fairy (or exam fairy for that matter)

 I know essays are hard, I know time on the nursing course is limited, and I know there is more than likely 100 things your rather be doing than discussing nursing ideology over 3000 words in continuous prose.  Saying that, I hate to break it to you but there is no essay fairy which will magically come and write it for you even if you leave your lecture notes on top of the fridge long enough.

Take your time and do the key thing of accessing support and you’ll be okay, honest.

Remember you came into nursing to nurse; you don’t have to be the world’s best essay writer.


5. Plan, plan, and plan some more

 Time management is the name of the game in nursing. You have to complete 2300 hours in practice and 2300 in theory at a minimum to gain your blues. You have to fit this around essays and exams, your own life and more than likely the bank job that the majority of nursing students do to top-up the bursary. It can get a bit busy! You have to be strict with yourself as to what you do and when to fit it all in. When things get hard, it’s all too easy to ignore the ‘problem’ (e.g. that nice essay on the fridge) and instead plough your efforts into something else – placement / a later exam or essay / OSCE’s and ESCE’s. You get the drift. Don’t bury your head in the sand about time management – prioritise well and it is doable – all the nurses out there are proof of that!


Finally, I want to tell you to enjoy it, treasure it and always, always remember why you came into nursing. It’s a beautiful profession to be a part of (even standing at the bus stop in the pouring rain at 5:30am!).

Wishing you all the luck in the world, and maybe, in three years’ time, It’ll be you writing this.

A Newly Qualified Nurse who used support from Diverse Learners

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