Well, today was my first day at university as a student nurse. Talk about pressure. In fact, there was so much pressure I decided that, when I got home at 5ish, I was going right to bed. And that’s where I am right now. It’s rare for me to post so late, but oh man I’m drained. So, what happened? What’s it like being a mature student nurse? And what should nursing students expect as a whole – from union speeches to nurse induction activities?
Honestly, it was like going back to school. Last night I was wide awake until midnight having tucked myself into bed at the wholesome time of 9:30pm. David was watching the NFL and sinking into a
glass bottle of gin, and after I asked him to turn the sound down I tried to sleep. And tried. And tried. He sauntered into bed just before midnight and I was still wide awake, listening to American Dad (which is weirdly what I listened to when we were flying back following the bad news and which seems to be a real comfort) and reading up on the day’s news. At just after midnight I must have fallen asleep, until I was jolted awake dreaming about pigs thrashing around in a muddy sty. Random.
With a 3am trip to the loo for a nerve wee, I feel into a slumber until my alarm buzzed at 06:40. I thanked the lord that I’d not chosen to firm King’s College London as the commute was a real dread. Snoozing for ten minutes I willed myself to get up, and started getting ready. David had a mug of tea and some spinach and scrambled eggs ready to go, and forty minutes later I was dashing to the train on my way to campus, before meeting up with a student I met at the welcome day who travels in from London.
To campus. Because I am a student nurse. My uni is ranked ninth in the top ten of English universities for nursing degrees (beating some of the most prestigious names), with 98% of graduates finding employment within 6 months.
I’d met a few other nurses on the Welcome Day; we’d all kept in touch via Facebook so we’d made plans to meet at Costa beforehand just so we didn’t feel too nervous heading into the huge lecture theatre on our own. For some reason, we never actually met up with anyone and instead were shuffled from building to building until we landed in the right place. With IDs all printed and tutor groups assigned, we had a good half an hour to wait. Perfect for a coffee, I thought.
I walked the short trip back to the main building only to have a lovely catering lady stop me midstep. Rose, her name is. She promptly told me my SKIRT WAS TUCKED IN MY KNICKERS and helped me sort myself out. What. A. Cringe. I’d walked like that for at least ten minutes – thank goodness it was early!
Bright red with embarrassment I took my seat back in the theatre and induction began.
Why I want to dedicate my career to the NHS, and why I cried today
If you don’t believe the NHS is worth investing in, if you’re happy to complain about doctors and nurses being a bit rubbish, and having to wait to see a GP, getting annoyed about the long waits in A&E, you must watch this. If it doesn’t send a chill down your spine, seeing the incredible legion of people who work for poop pay in some of the most hostile medical environments the UK has, then, well, perhaps America is the place to be. Give private healthcare a go. Because we don’t need to worry about cancer causing bankruptcy here. We don’t need to worry about not having the right insurance policy while we’re recovering from surgery. We don’t worry if we find a lump about the cost of doctor’s fees, waiting until it gets bigger and bigger, worse and worse, until it’s too late. We know the NHS and its people are working for our health. We know if we have a serious illness or accident we’ll get the care we need. And that’s what Health Education England were telling us.
Watch it to the end. I dare you not to cry.
Because from the day we’re born screaming, to the day we exhaust our last breath, we need healthcare providers to care. To be happy to work and serve. And while the good grace of nurses and doctors can be relied on for now as pay freezes enter their fifth year, it’s evident there are those who want to dissect this precious institution and carve it up, selling it to the highest bidder so they can make their millions as us, its users, are forced to pay for treatment.
Today we learnt that we are entering a profession. That we are accountable for everything we say and do, and that our actions could mean the end of our career. We are told to fight and work hard to be the best nurse we can be, to care about people and have compassion, to be courageous when we see something that isn’t right, and to be a champion for our patients.
Nursing, our lecturers explained, isn’t like in some countries, where it’s all theory and no substance. We were chosen for our course because we care and believe in first class healthcare no matter who we are treating. And those we saw today won’t last. Some 40% of nursing students won’t make it to graduation. Some will decide after a few weeks it’s not for them, and some after placement. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Better a nurse who wants it more than anything, than a miserable student who takes that negativity into the workforce.
Meeting my cohort
The entire morning had been spent all together, all 300-strong. Now it was time to break off into our groups of 30 and meet our tutors. We retreated to a small room and got to know each other better. My cohort includes fresh out of schoolers, and mature students who’ve been housewives for decades. Some speak five languages, others are actual nurses in their home countries. With a veritable mix of nursing students, we learnt a little about each other while our tutor observed who was good at talking, who was good at listening, and who – in her words – was bad at both! I hope she wasn’t talking about me… of course any feedback would be welcome!
Lunch, and other things
After lunch, we were treated to talks by Union members, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unison. Now, I’d already made my choice with how to spend my £10 per year. Unison is affiliated wit the Labour party, and as a non-voter I didn’t feel comfortable with my fee going to further the aims of a political party I don’t believe in. Trust me, I don’t believe any of them can keep their promises, hence my neutrality. They do brilliant work in campaigning for equality etc. But they weren’t right for me. The RCN offer far more academically – such as journal and textbook access as well as academic paper checking – and that’s worth a tenner in my book.
After the chats with the union guys, the Student Union came over talking all things Fresher. Seriously though, I’m 30. I don’t have the time or inclination to stay out drinking at detention parties and ball pits. That’s great for your average is-that-really-a-real-course-8-hours-a-week student who’s pretty much at uni to party. For me, it’s just not something I care to get involved in. Though of course the support they offer seems incredible when it comes to workloads, placements and the like.
With all information filed away and plans for tomorrow firmed up, a group of us sauntered back to Chelmsford station to catch the train back. And we were drained. A day of information was lodged in our heads, and all we could think of was flaking out! How those with kids do it I’ll never know.
So, my first day at university as an adult nursing student was a mix of discussing the responsibility we now face, the choices we must make, the state of the NHS and the role of Health Education England, the books we’re advised to buy and the plan for the next week. Tomorrow we start learning a bit more about everything, with Wednesday our day for uniform fittings and DBS checks. It’s been exausting, but I’ve never been more sure it’s what I want. More than a lot of things.
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