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  • 04 May 2022
  • 7 min read

Tips For Maintaining Your Mental Health As A Student Nurse

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  • Ellie Mae Lewis
    Student Nurse
  • 442
We know that as Nurses, we look after others before ourselves, but this will lead us all to burnout eventually if we aren’t careful.“We know that as Nurses, we look after others before ourselves, but this will lead us all to burnout eventually if we aren’t careful.”

Ellie gives some advice on how you can maintain your mental well-being as a Student Nurse. As well as highlighting some of the things that may indicate you are suffering.

Topics Covered In This Article

Introduction

The Issues

Potential Triggers

Don’t Be Harsh On Yourself

Things To Look Out For

Ways To Try And Cope

Final Thoughts

Introduction

I wanted to write this article to express the importance of recognising burn out as a student Nurse, within yourself as well as your peers.

Our mental health should be of the utmost importance in our day-to-day life, just as our physical health is, and globally we are working towards a better mental well-being, which is something I would love to be involved in within my career.

The Issues

Nursing courses very different to other degrees and can take a detrimental toll on us physically and emotionally if we don’t look after ourselves.

We need others to recognise nursing, as more than just a degree, it is a full-time job which includes working unpaid placements (40+ hours a week), with deadlines, clinical skills, exams, and a part time (sometimes even full time) job, as our funding is inadequate.

We study every day, work every day, and expect nothing back, but to complete our degree and successfully help other people.

The least we can do, is look after ourselves and our peers. Therefore, educating others about signs and symptoms of deteriorating mental health, as well as recognising and understanding them ourselves, is so vital.

Potential Triggers

There are so many different things in the world that can trigger people’s feelings of worry, sadness, or fear, so to list all the factors would be impossible.

However, common influences while studying a nursing degree include:

- Overworking yourself. Achieving 37.5 - 40 hours of placement per week, with most student Nurses working paid jobs on their days off, or after placement.

- Worrying about deadline dates. Submitting work on time and adhering to deadline dates can be a real challenge while you are studying for exams, working, along with preparing for the next placement.

- Isolating yourself from basic needs. For example, lack of socialisation with family and friends, due to being constantly busy. 

- Feelings of guilt, due to taking a well-deserved break.

- Feeling as though you are unable go to the toilet while working a shift (12 hours normally), along with still attending university or placement when unwell.

These are all basic human needs, and no one should ever feel guilty about them.

Don’t Be Harsh On Yourself

There feels as if there is so much pressure put on us as student Nurses, and it can sometimes feel as though we are expected to be superhuman.

This is not the case at all, us Nurses just want to be the best we can possibly be and it’s a pressure we (for some reason) put on ourselves.

Please don’t let this get on top of you.

We all have basic rights, and if you need to go to the toilet, then go!

If you are feeling overwhelmed and need a break, take a break!

Go and have fun!

You will pass, and you will do amazing.

Things To Look Out For

If you do feel as though your mental health may be deteriorating or notice a change in one of your peers, the following are common signs and symptoms to look out for:

- Feeling ‘low’ or ‘down’, often experiencing feelings of sadness

- Noticing differences in quality of work being produced

- Finding it difficult to concentrate/focus

- Changes within eating and sleeping habits

- Frequent feelings of worry, fear or guilt

- Thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or harming others

- Hallucinations

- Feeling confused or finding it difficult to cope with daily tasks.

A lot of qualified Nurses will issue me with this advice, as they reflect on their own experience as a student.

As student Nurses, we need to understand that we aren’t expected to know everything.

We are here to learn, ask questions and push boundaries.

We are not here because we already know everything.

It is amazing that they can share these thoughts with us, as it helps us get the most out of our present studies and experiences.

Ways To Try And Cope

There are many effective and simple things you can do to help with these difficult feelings, such as:

- Practice self-care and mindfulness (even though it sounds cliché) Meditation, a face mask, reading a book or even going out for a glass of wine!

These small acts will help relax and de clutter your mind. It really helps to refresh your thoughts and stresses.

- Keep a Diary! I have found, that keeping a diary, structuring my time, and ensuring I know all the important dates (placement starting, deadline dates, seminar/lecture times, clinical skills sessions) has been a life savour! It has really helped me organise my workload.

- Remember, you are not alone! Understanding when you need to reach out for help and who you can reach out too is essential.

1 in 4 people within the UK will experience mental health concerns in their lifetime… that is over 17 million people.

- Talk to others about how you are feeling! We all need to continue working to remove the stigma of mental health issues. Talking about how we feel, ensures and no one feels ashamed or alone.

- Seek a counsellor, therapist, or your GP for help! If you are struggling with the cost of mental health services, as the waiting list of adult mental health services on the NHS is reaching 4 years, there are always alternative ways you can get help.

For example, most university should have medical insurance which includes mental health services for students.

There are also online therapy apps, which are a lot more affordable than private health care and offer a range of different ways you can interact with a counsellor/psychiatrist.

- Go outside! Just breathing in fresh outside air is so important for our life expectancy, childhood outcomes, and both physical and mental health.

The function of our white blood cells is supported oxygen going into the lungs, as it increases the oxygen levels within the whole body.

The white blood cells play a major role within the immune system, and if they aren’t working as they should be, then illnesses are more likely to occur.

So, if you don’t give yourself time outside, it can be detrimental to your future health.

Personally, I try to have 1 or 2 self-care days a week, where I relax.

Or alternatively, I will see my family and friends.

It is important to remind yourself that it is normal to take a break!

Don’t feel guilty!

Obviously, everyone is different, so do what makes you happy!

The best bit of advice that I can offer is, please don’t compare yourselves to others.

We are all on our different journeys, no two journeys are the same. Be proud of everything you achieve, even the little things, we are not expected to know everything! (Otherwise, what is the point of studying this course?)

Final Thoughts

We know that as Nurses, we look after others before ourselves, but this will lead us all to burnout eventually if we aren’t careful.

And many organisations are starting to think this may be the reason our work force has so many national vacancies.

Our health should be a priority for us and our supporting organisations.

We need to be tackling this issue headfirst and I am so glad that nurses.co.uk has allowed to me raise awareness of mental health stigma.

About the author

  • Ellie Mae Lewis
    Student Nurse

Ellie Mae is a nursing student studying children and young people’s nursing at UWE. She is currently in her first year and feeling as though she has found her purpose. She also works bank shifts as a Nursing Assistant.

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  • Ellie Mae Lewis
    Student Nurse

About the author

  • Ellie Mae Lewis
    Student Nurse

Ellie Mae is a nursing student studying children and young people’s nursing at UWE. She is currently in her first year and feeling as though she has found her purpose. She also works bank shifts as a Nursing Assistant.

  • 442

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    • Aneesah Aneesah 21 days ago
      Aneesah Aneesah
    • Aneesah Aneesah
      21 days ago

      Love this article Ellie. I absolutely agree, it is so important for us as student nurses to look after our ... read more