What to Expect As a Student Nurse

When you first start out as a student on your nursing course, you may not know what to expect. Although experiences of student nursing do tend to vary from person to person, there are a few things which you may wish to bear in mind, in order to ensure that you are as prepared as possible for life as a student nurse.

Expect to be busy

Working as a nurse is not a nine-to-five job, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself working unsociable hours as a student too. You might only be on placement for three days a week, but this is unlikely to mean that you will be able to spend all your days off relaxing and socialising. Expect to work hard and you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed by days spent in the student library or looming coursework deadlines. Don’t forget, you’ll be working to get your head around nursing theory, whilst also learning how to put such techniques into practice. Learn how to manage your time effectively and you’ll be better able to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Expect to meet new people

Student nursing will require that you work closely with other students and members of medical staff, so you’re sure to meet plenty of new people. Sharing the knowledge which you learn can be extremely helpful, especially if you’re living with other student nurses who are likely to be having similar experiences. You will also meet a good number of qualified nurses, doctors and other members of hospital staff, who you will be able to learn from during your journey to becoming a nurse.

Expect to use your initiative

Student nursing courses tend to be relatively independent and you may often find that you are often required to use your initiative. From organising your accommodation, to arranging your own study groups, thinking ahead can prove advantageous. When completing clinical shifts, don’t be afraid to speak up if you want clarification on anything and be honest if you are unsure. Asking lots of questions can help you to progress more quickly and will demonstrate your enthusiasm to learn. If you want to impress, then you’ll need to make sure that you’re never late and always organised.

Expect the unexpected

As you will soon learn, no two days working as a nurse are ever alike and it is always good to be prepared. Patients do not always respond in the way that your expect them to and you will want to ensure that you are always alert to spot anything unusual or out of the ordinary. At the same time, your nursing course may also be subject to change and you may not find yourself working on the placements that you were hoping to. Learn what you can from every situation that you find yourself presented with and you’ll soon be well on your way to qualifying as a nurse.

Tips For Nursing Pinning Planners

The Pinning Ceremony is a wonderful time-honored nursing school tradition, dating back before the turn of the twentieth century. Some schools view the pinning ceremony as an outdated ritual and are abandoning it altogether. It is a more intimate version of the graduation special to nursing graduates; a celebration of what you and your class have accomplished during the past two-four (sometimes more) years.

Here’s what some students had to say

“I love that myself and my classmates will get special recognition apart from the other college graduates. In the graduation ceremony, there are several hundred graduates. Everyone wears the same thing so there is no distinction. I am quite excited that we get our own separate ceremony, for those of us and our families who understand what we’ve been through to get where we are.” -Kim

“I graduated from nursing school 4 years ago, and we were required to do pinning and graduation. I can tell you that the pinning was more significant to me. Not that these professions aren’t important, but graduation got lost to accountants and business type people. Pinning was about the nurses. It was all of us, who had struggled through the same thing and endured the same tortures. We would just look at each other and cry, because this is what we had all been talking about for sooooo long. And our loved ones, the people who helped get us through it and sacrificed just as much, were there with us. Our instructors pinned us. Very formal affair. It just meant so much.” -Donna

The Traditional Ceremony

The traditional ceremony starts with a processional of graduates in white uniforms. There is usually a guest speaker and one or more student speakers, including the class president or president of your local Student Nurses’ Association. Awards are given out and flowers are given to choice faculty members.

Reading of the Florence Nightingale Pledge:

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

The passing of the flame, that is lighting candles as a symbol of Florence Nightingale’s lamplight. A member of the faculty lights each candle after the graduate is pinned and welcomes the new nurse or, all graduates line up and the flame travels down the line with, each graduate lighting their neighbor’s candle welcoming them to nursing.

The New Trends

Students are wearing semi-formal attire or caps and gowns rather then the traditional white uniforms. Students are choosing who pins them instead of one faculty member pinning all. Popular choices are their child, spouse, parent, other relative, or a favorite clinical instructor. While the graduate is pinned another reads their prepared “words of thanks” and announce where they will start their career.

Including a 5-10 minute slide show reflecting on the past years in school adds a nice personal touch. Use background music or have a voiceover of students reflecting on their nursing school experience.

Reciting an updated Nursing Pledge such as:

Before God and in the presence of this assembly we promise:

  • To practice the art and science of nursing, toward increasing patients’ physical and emotional health, based on evidence and current nursing research.
  • To acknowledge the privilege to hold their lives in our care, and practice nursing, in partnership with our patients.
  • To acknowledge the privilege to comfort our dying patients, into death, with dignity.
  • To hold those entrusted to our care with respect, affirm their innate worth and hold their privacies in confidence.
  • To advocate for the health and needs of our patients, respecting their cultural and religious beliefs.
  • To act as leaders in promoting health throughout our communities.
  • To hold in esteem nursing educators, researchers, scholars and experts who have guided our path, and are welcoming us into the profession.
  • To help strengthen fellow nurses and advance the aims of our nursing profession.
  • To share our knowledge with, encourage, and welcome future nurses.

The passing of the flame is symbolic and still very popular. Lighting the candles is an elegant way to end the ceremony.

So plan your pinning and make it your own. Do what works for your class and it will be a beautiful and emotional ceremony you, your classmates, and your loved ones will never forget.

Reality Shock For Graduate Nurses

So now you are close to graduating from nursing school or you have graduated recently. Whichever the case, you will be in for a reality shock when you begin your career as a Registered Nurse. What do we mean by the term, “reality shock”? Well, like the term says, it is the reality that shocks us. The question you may ask is, “so there is a difference in the reality of being a student or graduate nurse”? The answer is an emphatic, YES!

First of all, as a student nurse you were given assignments that were not beyond the scope of your practice or ability. In addition to that, you were working under your instructor’s license and whether or not you were aware, they kept a very close watch on you. Therefore, there was a safety net that always hovered beneath you in case you were to fall. This is not the case as you take on the title, Registered Nurse. There is no safety net. You are out there by yourself, free to make decisions and make mistakes. With those decisions and mistakes you are also, FULLY ACCOUNTABLE.

Now imagine yourself with eight or more patients. You may be asking yourself, “What do you mean eight or MORE patients?” Most student nurses never have more than six or seven patients and that is only at the very end of the program. Even then, the student nurses can delegate tasks to assistive personnel thereby lessening their work load. However, there will be time that you will be on a floor, without any assistive personnel, with more than eight patients and no one to rely on except yourself. To compound this scenario, there may be patients that have very critical care pathways that you must follow, incoming calls from patient’s families, doctor’s, operating room staff, and other collaborative care departments requesting information.

Now, let’s stop this scenario in its tracks. You probably feel the stress building by just reading the previous passage. If so, don’t worry, it is a perfectly normal reaction. So, relax, and know that there are ways to ease this inevitable right of passage. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to help ease and deal with reality shock.

1. First of all, it is important to understand that, “reality shock” does indeed exist and you will come face to face with it. Knowing what you will face is most of the battle. The task at hand then becomes, knowing what steps to take and resources to use, and how to use them.

2. Learn as much as you can during your in-service training program, which usually lasts up to eight weeks or more. This means familiarizing yourself with every inch of your floor. Know where everything is located, from safety pins to I.V. tubing. You may never know when you may need it, NOW, and the worst thing that can happen is that you spend precious time looking for something as small as a safety pin.

3. Know, who the assisted personnel are, and know them by name and face. Find out who will be the ones that you will be working with during your shift. What usually happens during in-service training is that graduate nurses train on the main shift, which is most frequently days, before transferring to the shift that they have been hired to work. Therefore it is very important to know who you will be working with during your shift. Try also to develop a working relationship with the assistive personnel. Remember, it is not a popularity game, you are not out to make best friends. Your goal is quality patient care, and the patient comes first.

Let your intentions be known that your number one goal is to give the best patient care that you have respect for the care team assistive personnel and are a willing and helpful body to them as well. In doing this, you will have disabled the invisible wall that exists between nurses and assistive personnel. That wall is the one entitled, I am a NURSE and you are ONLY an aide. One thing that you must strive for is to use an even tone of voice, and fairness when delegating. You must also remember the rights of delegation, which are as follows,
a. the right task,
b. the right person,
c. the right communication, (must be clear and concise),
d. the right feedback, (the person who is delegated the task must comprehend what it is that is asked of them and let the nurse know that they comprehend). By doing this you are ensuring that patient care will not suffer do to a personality glitch, which could have been avoided.

4. Know, know and KNOW where the Policy and Procedure manual is located on the floor. Part of your hospital in-service will include the introduction of the Policy and Procedure Manual. This is the manual that you will have to refer to many times for protocol from everything from changing out a Foley Catheter to transporting a patient to another floor. The final analysis will be in any investigation, “did the nurse use and follow the Policy and Procedure Manual?” You want to always be sure that you follow the rules and protocols contained in your institutions manual. Therefore, you should know where it is located and be familiar with how to look up various procedures and policies.

5. the policy regarding medication errors. Most everyone makes them and it is crucial that you know what paperwork is required to be filled out. It will come in handy. You cannot just, “wing it”, when making a decision, you have to follow protocol.

6. Use assertive communication when interacting with doctors’. Assertive communication indicates that you are aware of yourself and your limitations as well as your liability to the patients that you care for. Using this form of communication with over assertive medical personnel will help you function to your maximum capability and earn respect as an independent care professional. {For more information on the uses and strategies concerning assertive communication, please refer to the text entitled, Nursing Today, Transition and Trends, by JoAnn Zerwekh, Jo Carol Claborn, 5th edition, Co. 2006, Saunders, Philadelphia.}

7. Ask questions. You will have time during your in-service training to ask questions and get answers. It is your right to do so. Remember, not knowing is not an excuse, and you do not want to be in a situation where there will be no-one to ask. This is not to say that you will know everything, but a least you are giving yourself a head start and a good solid foundation by knowing what you can. So don’t be afraid to ask. Also, know who your resources are, for questions that you may have on the shift that you will be working.

8. Find a mentor with whom you can relate. Try to find someone not only on the shift during training, but also on the shift that you will be working. It is nice to find someone who has the experience and understanding as well as someone that you can get along. There might be a time that you will want to call them in the middle of the night and vent your concerns, or just to have them give you positive input in your performance. Mentors are essential to the growth of a new nurse.

9. Lastly, Know, Know and Know, what your State Nurse Practice Act states. This Act, is your guideline for most all that you do as a Registered Nurse. Know it well.

Hopefully these tips will help to ease the reality shock that you will face during your transition from student nurse to full time graduate nurse. Remember, you can’t do it all. You are a welcome asset to your employer, but first and foremost an embodiment of all that Florence Nightingale stood for. Best wishes on your journey.

Learn more about nursing education at The NET Study Guide.