• 08 August 2019
  • 16 min read

What I wish I could tell my past-self about nursing

  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

Now going into her third year, it’s safe to say Claire has a wealth of student nurse experience under her belt. In this video, she shares what she could tell her past self about what nursing would be like!

Play video: Claire shares what she'd tell her past-self about nursing if she could go back in time!

Topics covered in this video

0.00 Introduction - what I wish I knew before nursing at university

0.30 Struggling with finances

2.17 To always ask for help/support

3.38 The emotional rollercoaster

4.59 You CAN do this!

6.46 The maths

8.08 How much the nurses rely on you

10.50 To take some time out before starting uni

12.32 How amazing this degree is

13.11 Nursing will change you

Watch more videos by Claire

0.00 Introduction - what I wish I knew before nursing at university

Hi everyone! So, my name is Claire Carmichael and this is my vlog all about what I wish I knew before starting nursing/University.

I did put some posts on my social media because I wanted more of other people's opinions rather than just my own for this one.

So, I'm going to go through the good, the bad and the ugly!

0.30 Struggling with finances

So let's start off with the ugly finances.

Everybody pretty much struggles throughout this degree with their finances unless you have been seconded, where you get a full pay unless you're military, or yeah, anyone like that where they also get full pay.

If you are funding this yourself it is a bit of a struggle, especially when you've got a house, when you've got bills, when you've/if you've got children, childcare and if you haven't got much of a support network around you, or even if you're living at home with parents, which is probably just as bad because they take into account that you're living with your parents you get less funding, so that's gonna be a struggle for you.

And it's really, really, really hard when all of your friends that aren't doing a degree, they're working full time, they've gone on holidays all the time, they're going out all the time, they can afford all these luxuries and you're just like, oh I'm so broke!

I'm living on beans on toast and pot noodles and pasta and rice dishes.

But to be honest, before I started I knew it was gonna be a struggle, and looking at the student loan and the bursary that I got I knew that I was going to have to work to get money and live.

So I was kind of a little bit clued up on the budgeting and I did do mine quite smart, so my advice to you is just budget.

Know what you've got coming in and know you've got going out, make a list, make a spreadsheet if you have to; just make something so that you know exactly what's going in and what's going out, and look at that, put it on the wall, put it anywhere that you can see how much you've got to spend every single month and that's just going to help you and just budget.

And it is three years you've just got a budget for, three years!

And I say just three years but it goes so, so fast, honestly it's gonna be so worth it in the end.

Just budget, save, do this - you've got this, come on!

2.17 To always ask for help/support

Always seek support, advice, help when you're down, when you're struggling with work, when you're - even if you think you're on the right lines, double-check it, please!

This is one thing that I actually wish I did in first year because the whole of first year I spent searching databases completely wrong and I didn't know it and I wasn't finding anything, and it was tearing my hair out but I didn't do anything about it, didn't ask for help than the library I just assumed there was nothing out there for what I was looking for, and I could have saved myself half the time.

So I went to the library in second year because it was really tearing my hair out, because our topic that I was looking for, I knew there would be research out there but it was coming up with no results.

I was like, that's impossible, there can't be no results to this, so I went to the library and she opened a whole new world to me!

I was like, wow, first year was such a struggle when I should have just come to you in the first place!

So please get support from your personal development departments, from the library, from your personal tutor.

If you are having a mental health crisis, if you're feeling really down, anything like that, please speak to your university, seek support, seek help.

Don't be too proud to do that because so many of you are going through this at the same time and they're going through all of the motions and things like that together.

You're not alone in this so please get the help and support.

Don't give up, you've got this!

3.38 The emotional rollercoaster

Now this one, I put on my social media and someone commented with this emotional response and I was like, yes!

You know, what I did not expect before university that this was going to be such an emotional roller coaster - one minute you're up, next you're down, one minute you’re happy and ecstatic and loving life, next thing you're crying because one of your patients took a turn for the worst and you're really feeling for them and you go home crying and thinking about it.

Oh, do you know what? This is emotional.

Get ready, get your tissues ready, get your smiles ready because your face is gonna ache from laughing and smiling as well as the tears rolling down your face. Your body's gonna ache physically, you're going to be mentally drained, but nine times out of ten this is amazing.

This is the best course, it's the best journey and all of the good completely outweighs the bad.

There's only been a few times where I've been stressed, down, demotivated, crying and the good positive happy times have definitely outweighed any negativity.

So please just be prepared for the emotional aspect of this. Be prepared that you are going to cry, you're gonna have breakdowns, but it's okay.

You just recharge, reenergize, that’s it, move along, carry on - life is good!

4.59 You CAN do this!

I'm gonna say just for me personally, but the fact, I wish that I could go back in time just say to myself ‘you can do this’ because I had so much doubt at the start.

Before starting University those first months were hell.

I had so much doubting myself, I didn't think I was gonna get through three years, I thought was gonna be too hard, but do you know what? It's not, it's not as bad as you think.

Yes there will be times where you're revising and nothing’s sinking in and you're thinking ‘I'm gonna fail this’ or maybe you don't pass something first time, it's okay.

But do you know what? You will do it. You will smash it.

As well as that, nursing isn't for everybody and that's okay too.

If you go into this and you think, do you know what, actually nursing isn't for me, make sure firstly you try everything you can to stay, do everything you can to clear that doubt, keep moving, get over first year, make sure that the decision that you're making right now about leaving nursing is the right one before ever quitting, okay?

Please get help, get support speak to your friends, speak to your family about it, speak to colleagues about it, don't just quit at the first hurdle.

Please, that I'm absolutely begging you don't quit the first hurdle because it does get better, it does get amazing and you will all fall in love with it hopefully.

But if it's not for you, it's not for you.

Nursing isn't for everyone, not every single person can be a nurse out there, that's okay - if you find that, that's fine.

Find something that you do love because life's too short to not be doing something you absolutely love.

We spend 24/7 at work, our colleagues become our family, they are our friends, you're going to be spending all that time them and to do something you hate, that's not okay.

And so find something you do love, if that's not for you and that's fine!

6.46 The maths

Someone else mentioned the math side of it because they have this calculae - I can't say that word - and they've really struggled with maths, which is a really, big good point because for me maths is easy, I've been fine with my maths, I've smashed it.

But for other people that's not the same. I don't think that there's enough information out there for the maths before you start University but there are things like the GCSE bite-size websites there's the RCN, there's the NMC that do all the calculations and there's practice tests and stuff online to do.

You can have a go at those and read around it but there's, I don't think there's enough information, maybe, about the different types of exams the wording and all of that jazz, if that makes sense!

But with my university, Birmingham City, they do prepare you; so we have tutorials, we have one to ones if we want them we can book in for that, we have workshops, we have a lot of online practise tests as well that we can do, so there is that little bit more support for us at Birmingham City I think, I'm not too sure what other universities do but I just know that my university are quite good like that.

But if you are struggling with your maths, please speak up, tell somebody, get help, get support and just make sure that you've got all of the support in place that you need.

8.08 How much the nurses rely on you

Something else someone mentioned was how much the registered nurses out on placement really need your support and help out there, because they're rushed off their feet, it’s short-staffed and you will sometimes be thrown completely in at the deep end and they'll just be like, ‘can you do this, can you do that, can you do that?’ and you're completely on your own - not completely on your own, they'll be watching you from afar!

But just to be mindful that you might get a situation where you are just thrown in and just be like, okay, do this, do this, do this, and you have to go out and do it.

You're completely autonomous and you are making those decisions.

So if there's ever a time that a registered nurse or doctor or healthcare assistant, phlebotomist, any of the multidisciplinary team are asking you to do something and you're not trained, you're not competent, you're not comfortable, please say no because it's better that you are safe, if you practice safely for the benefit of the patient and maintain patient safety, than put yourself at risk and completely erase your PIN before you've even got it.

So just practice safely but if you are trained and you're comfortable to do that then please just go out there and do it, help the team out because it's about teamwork.

Show your autonomy, show that you're gonna be an amazing nurse, show that you can walk in and you're going to learn so, so much by just doing that, by getting stuck in doing the nitty-gritty and just learning on the job.

But just a word of warning, it can be very stressful out there on placement.

You're going to see people tearing their hair out, you're going to see people really struggling because of staff shortages and you're going to be like, oh god, is this for me?

Please don't let that affect you, it's just a really bad day and it does get better, and if you don't like a particular ward, a particular team, a particular registered nurse as your mentor, that's okay, you don't have to work there at the end of the day.

Get your placement done and move on.

But at the same time if you're having problems and real issues with anything, report it to your placement practice manager, if you feel comfortable report it to your mentor, the ward manager, your University - anybody that you can.

Don't just leave things and just think, you know what, I just want to pass and get on with it, because that next student that’s coming on is going to have to same and it's going to be this knock-on effect and these sort of cultures will never change if nothing is said or done about it.

So please do speak up if you're having serious issues, bullying, anything like that please speak up because it does happen.

I've heard it happen and it's not okay and we need to be reporting it.

But on a positive note, I've had amazing placements, I've never had a problem, I've been really fortunate with everything, I've got stuck in and I've loved it, so please don't worry!

10.50 To take some time out before starting uni

So for me, I worked all of the time before starting University because I really needed the money and I thought, if I get every shift in possible before starting I'll be great because I'll be good for money when I start this course, so that's what I did.

So I had a good amount of savings ready for when I started, but at the same time I wish I knew before starting University it would take away all of my life.

I threw all of myself into nursing into this degree, I am a hundred to one, non-stop in the fast lane.

I do everything possible. I do all these extracurricular activities, I am non-stop.

I keep one day free to myself every week and I tried to keep that free.

Lately I’ve been keeping two days free, I can give my weekends completely free.

I'll do like a little bit of work if I need to but then I'll completely keep the rest of the day free.

But I wish I took some time out before starting University and that's what I really wished I did, just to relax, keep calm, recharge, get ready for how intense this course is and can be.

I wish I did that before instead of concentrating so much on work. I didn't see friends, I didn't see family.

My advice to you is take some time out before starting, maybe a week before starting, and take that time out, see your friends, your family, because once you start this degree you are going to be so focused on passing the degree, working and just social life takes a step back.

I'm really sorry to tell you that but it happens but it's all going to be worth it at the end.

This is going to be amazing this is going to be the best journey. It's going to be just so, so worth it when you finish with your pin, in your blues, being a registered nurse!

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12.32 How amazing this degree is

I wish I knew just how incredible and amazing this journey was actually going to be so that I could completely remove all of my fears that I had at the start.

But actually, I don't know... I don't know if I’d wanna know because it's been a really good surprise and it's been absolutely amazing, and for me this has just been the most incredible journey.

I have grown, I've developed, I've gained my confidence, my self-esteem - it's just been incredible and a really happy, unexpected journey that has been amazing.

13.11 Nursing will change you

And just on a final, final, final note, I wish I knew that nursing would actually change me.

And this is something that I've said before in vlogs but this is something that somebody told me before starting University and I didn't believe it.

They said ‘nursing will change you’, and I was like, how can nursing change you? I didn't believe it completely and I wish I did believe it, because you need to believe it.

Nursing will change you, you're going to start off as really unconfident, you're going to doubt yourself; it's going to happen, it happens to us all and even now in third year you still have those wobble moments but not as much.

But over time, over the first year, second year, third year, you're going to be a different person, you're going to be so confident in what you're doing, you're going to be just - I can't even explain it, you are a just a different person.

I'm no longer just a shell of myself existing, I have purpose in my life now, my life has meaning.

I'm helping people, I'm saving lives, I'm caring for those that need it most and it's just amazing and it's just given me this newfound confidence in my abilities and I just love life, I absolutely love life right now.

So, you know, nursing will change you change you for the better!

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About the author

  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

I am a student nurse studying at Birmingham City University. I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs not only to help other student nurses, but also to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.

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  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

About the author

  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

I am a student nurse studying at Birmingham City University. I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs not only to help other student nurses, but also to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.