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  • 11 July 2019
  • 14 min read

A day in Claire's life as a student nurse

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In this blog, Claire shares what a day in her life looks like as a student nurse, both on placement and at university.

Play video: Claire shares a typical day in the life of a student nurse.

Hi everyone and welcome back!

So this is a vlog all about the day in a life of a student nurse.

I'm going to split this into two sections; I'm going to split one into placements and one into university life.

Student Nurse University Life

University is the first stop, it's the first place that we're going to be at before placement, start to get the knowledge and theory behind us.

Usually your day at university will run anytime between 9:00a.m. till 7:00 p.m. in the evening.

For my university in particular, which is Birmingham City University, we don't have any set days/set times, anything like that, we just have a timetable.

One day we might be in 9-12, another day we might be in 9-5, another day we might be in from 5 to 7 or 4 to 6.

All of our timetables are really random, there's no set days, times anything like that, but you do get your timetable in advance which is a bonus.

Our timetables are like four weeks in advance so we know what we've got and when we've got it, and you can sort of plan your life around it which is a massive help, especially for you guys that have got children - I take my hat's off to you all!

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But it's really good for planning your life around children and families and things like that.

Just for me personally, if I'm due to be at university for 9 a.m. I will get there an hour early, so I will always get there for 8 and I will dedicate an hour of my life to doing a bit of work before I start University.

This is my protected hour that I give myself and to be fair I'm really on the ball with it; the first two and a half years I've been really good at it, it's only been the last month I think that I've sort of been slacking a little bit!

But I usually get there early either way, I will get there at least 30 minutes early so I can have a cup of tea because our university has a Starbucks, it has a Costa, it has a canteen where you can get breakfast and hot drinks.

I get there a little bit earlier so I can get a drink, settle down and get ready for my day.

My uni friends and I have got a whatsapp group so we will whatsapp each other and just be like ‘is anyone at uni yet?’ and we'll all meet up and we'll have a tea or coffee whatever before starting lectures, which is really nice and it's just a really social thing to do.

It gets you ready for the day with your friends, it's a really nice way to start the day.

That is a massive top tip, if you're beginning University, once you've made your friends get a whatsapp group and meet before lectures and go into lectures together.

It's really nice, it's lovely.

Play video: lacking motivation? Claire shares her tips on how to get that passion for nursing back!

I do quite a lot at university, so I do a lot of extracurricular activities, so even though I'm off from lectures I will be at university doing something most of the time.

I've taken part in the seminar series as part of the HARS, which is the high achiever's recognition scheme.

They put on seminar series to build your leadership and mentoring and coaching, post presentations, interviews, all of that, everything we need of nurses, I took part in those and I was going there on my days off.

I also do some volunteering at the Uni and I am also a student academic leader. I take part in a lot of the surveys and I take part in a lot of the quality improvement days that we have at University.

So just recently we had the NMC come in, talked about the new set of standards for the new students in September this year and I got to be part of that and give my input, answer any questions that they had for us and it was just amazing.

It's a really good experience and that was completely voluntary as well, I did get a free lunch though - if there’s free lunch I’m there!

But I do things like that, I really love to be involved in University and I find that keeps me really motivated, it keeps you on track on this course because it can be sometimes a little bit stressful and it's nice to do these extra little things just to keep you on track and keep you motivated.

So my days are jam-packed!

After university or after lectures, after my extracurricular activities, I come home and I usually spend a couple of hours in the evening doing some work, whether it's revision assignments, at the minute it’s dissertation, so I'll spend a couple of hours in the evening doing some dissertation then I'll sit down and I have my dinner.

Depending what time I finish University, if I finished early I'll do my work first and then I have my dinner and settle down for the night, sometimes I will have my dinner first and then do my work after.

However, I find doing it that way around, if I'm working before bed, I will start having nightmares about work and overload and revision, it's happened so many times so I try and avoid revising before bed.

I will tend to write assignments and things like that because that's not as stressful I don't think, for me.

But just a word of warning, you might have that experience, I hope not!

And also, if you have a full-on day at university you will get regular breaks throughout the day.

You'll get a lunch break - we usually have like an hour for lunch, sometimes two or three hours in between lectures, so if it's nice we'll go outside and we'll sit in the sun and we’ll have an ice cream, we'll have a laugh together and then just prepare ourselves for the next lecture.

Sometimes we have gone to the library as well on our lunch breaks and we sat down and we spoke to the librarian about things that we've all been struggling with, which has been a massive help.

Play video: Here's some top tips for your nursing personal statement.

But mainly we do eat and we recharge and go back to it.

So, our university does Monday to Friday, we don't do weekends - in fact, I don't know any universities that are open at weekends, you don’t have lectures at the weekend so you should ideally have weekends free.

I tend to work Saturdays, I used to work on Sundays but they closed our clinic on Sunday now so I don't do a Sunday.

I work on a Saturday, sometimes a day in the week, I've got a couple of days off in a week.

I do work once or twice a week every now and then, mainly when I'm at University.

When I'm on the placements it's a different matter, I try and avoid to work when I’m on placements because it’s a little bit too much, I think a little bit too intense and you have to meet those legal requirements of your 48 hours a week so I try and stick to that.

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Student Nurse Placement Life

All of my placements so far have been an hour and a half away on public transport, so I had to be really organized.

I get up at 5:00 a.m. and I'm out the house by 5:30, I literally spend 30 minutes getting ready, that is it. I prepare everything the night before so I'm ready to go the next day.

I get up, wash my face and I’m done and out the house, then I get two buses to placements.

I'm waiting for my next allocation, so hopefully it's gonna be closer! I will arrive at placement at 7:00 a.m., this is on the wards.

You sort of have that morning routine where you get patients up, washed and dressed dress, assisting them with breakfast if they need their breakfast, who do your ward rounds you'll do your fluid balances and do medication, sometimes with your mentor, depending on how busy it is.

Then you'll have a tea break in between morning and lunch, you have a little tea break depending on the ward area you're in and then you'll come back and then you'll go around you do all the fluid balance and things like that, end of bed notes, you document in the care plans you will document in their care notes as well for your patient what you’ve done for that morning.

Then it'll be lunchtime, so you help get the lunches around to your patients, help assist anybody that needs help with eating and drinking and then after lunch you sort of go around make sure your patients are okay, make sure if there's any wound dressings to do, do the wound dressings, do your care rounds which is where you check the pressure-relief, make sure they've drank, eaten, moving about, making sure patients are okay hourly, making sure they've got the call bell by them, jug beside them.

After lunch it sort of calms down a little bit I feel, there's that period between about 2pm and 4pm, those two hours that sort of seemed a little bit calmer, unless something happened and you’re short-staffed or something like that and then it goes a little bit chaotic, but nine times out of ten that is the quieter period.

I advise anyone if you're calling your placement to get your allocated shifts, do it at this time call them around 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and later shifts because that's when they'll be most quiet and hopefully be able to answer your call and sort out your rota for you.

Play video: here's how to survive the night shift.

Just a top tip, this is also time to catch up on any paperwork, observations that you haven't managed to do in the morning, anything that your patients need help with.

If it's really quiet I tend to go round and speak to my patients, sit with them, make sure they're okay, see if there's anything I can do for them.

Then five o'clock will be your mealtime, so you will again assist with Meal Time, assist with any eating and drinking if needed, don't forget to fill out the food diaries as well for each meal for each patient, if they're on a food diary fluid balance make sure that's all documented.

Then in the evening, you're sort of settling patients down, anyone that wants to get into the pyjamas or anything like that you can help them.

Sometimes you do the observations again, so they'll be patients that are on different timed observations which is the blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate with respiratory rate.

Some will be on four times a day, some will be on twice a day, some will be on once a day, it just depends on what your patient is.

So keep a note of what patients are what and when to do the observations, because sometimes you'll be going around again before you finish at seven at night and you'll be doing your observations again before you go home.

Then reporting that back to your mentor, if there's any abnormalities too, make sure you always report anything abnormal that you notice, document in the observations, report it.

If anyone’s scoring 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, whatever, just report it.

Also you should get a lunch break, so you'll get a lunch break and another break like a tea break as well in the evening, some people will do a ten-minute morning break and then they'll have half an hour lunch break, sometimes you have an hour for lunch and then you don't have a break in the evening, or sometimes you'll have 15 minutes in the morning, thirty minutes for lunch and then 15 minutes in the afternoon.

Different wards do completely different things I've found, so just assess it when you get to your placement, but make sure you always rest, recharge and get your energy back for when you go back.

Always have your break guys! So that was just a really quick run-through of a ward placement, now I'm just going to briefly talk about the community placement that I had, which was completely different from the ward.

I loved it.

Those of you that have watched my videos before know I love GP, I love community nursing, it is where I am going to be.

I'm a community nurse through and through! So my GP placement was amazing, I worked Monday to Friday and my shifts were all different throughout the week.

On Monday I did nine until seven, and then Tuesday would be like nine until two and then a Wednesday would be nine until four, and then Thursday would be like nine until twelve, Friday was nine till twelve.

We always had that one long day and then the rest was short days.

On a Friday I always went with the doctor because my mentor didn't work on a Friday so I sat in with the doctor which is amazing.

If you've got a community placement please ask to go with your doctor for a day just to see from that perspective of things and how they do things and how they assess patients, it's absolutely amazing, it was so nice to see that side of things and my doctor was amazing. It was so varied.

I was actually given my very own clinics to run, so I was given my own room with my own little name on the sign, no more student nurse it was Claire Carmichael, that was my clinic.

I had my own patients for hypertension, diabetes, asthma, any wound dressings as well because my mentor knew I loved wounds so I did the wounds, new patient health checks as well.

I had all of those patients but I always knew that my mentor was there and the doctor was there so if I needed anything, if I struggled with anything, if I had any problems I knew I could call them in those times of need which was amazing and only happened a couple of times thankfully!

Play video: Claire talks about what brought her into nursing!

A few top tips for placement

Finally, my top tip for placement is to ask as many questions as you can.

No question is a stupid question.

And make the most of every opportunity, whether you enjoy that particular ward, whether you don't like the ward, you have to make the most of every single opportunity thrown at you because we're going to learn so so much from each and every ward whether we like it or not and it's just an amazing time to learn and gain experience.

Just a little reminder, one bad day on placement, one bad experience, one bad whole placement does not define your career as a nurse.

Your career as a nurse is going to be amazing, you're going to love life to the fullest when you're qualified working in an area that you want to work in.

It's going to be amazing and it can be so rewarding and you're gonna love it.

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About the author

I am a Registered Nurse with over 12 years healthcare experience including: elderly care, orthopaedics, sexual health / family planning, qualified GP nurse, transgender healthcare and now in my new role as an assistant lecturer (as of Nov 2022). I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs to help anyone considering their nursing career and to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.

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