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3008306_Danielle-TirelI can still recall my first day at university, sat in the lecture hall, able to refer to myself as a student nurse.

I was keen, enthusiastic, buzzing – the last one mainly due to the large quantity of morning coffee I had consumed, much needed due to midday lie-ins during summer.

The lecturer was halfway through her welcome speech, when she started talking about how we would change as individuals during this course. I looked around me as I thought how I certainly was not going to change. I would get better at writing assignments and learn nursing skills, but I wouldn’t change. I was me and pretty happy with that, thanks.

Boy was I wrong.

I don’t think you realise how you’ll change on this degree until you’re halfway through, or even qualified and reflect back on how much you have achieved and how you have changed. At the time you don’t realise how critically analysing hundreds of articles and carrying out evidence-based practice during placement is actually developing you.

I look at things differently now. I analyse situations. I never believe something straight away, just because it’s written down on paper. This sounds like I’m being negative. Trust me I’m not! Becoming a student nurse has allowed me to consider the alternatives and develop my intuition.

It’s not even just from a nursing perspective; the world becomes open to various possibilities and alternatives and considering just one viewpoint is so flat and under-developed.

Not only have I been able to improve myself with regards to my outlook and mindset, but actually placement is where I really developed. I don’t think anyone would disagree that during the nursing degree being on placement is when reality kicks in. The patients aren’t mannequins from clinical skills but actual people with contexts, life stories and emotions.

I’m sure everyone has a mental memory box – one situated in the back corner of your mind in which you store those patients that really made a difference to you. They developed you in a way you couldn’t have imagined before you met them. The appreciation one woman had for me simply offering to wash and blow dry her hair was touching. I styled it how she liked it be done, offered humanised care and took the time to see what that individual wanted me to help them with.

I could have listened for hours to some of the life stories, the magic that was told on the ward or in their homes.

Yes becoming a student nurse has developed my writing skills, it has improved my ability to reference and write a concise conclusion, and it has developed my ability to keep on my feet for hours on end and wake up for hospital shifts far earlier than a student should ever surface. But far more important, becoming a student nurse has allowed me to develop life skills, the ability to consider situations from different perspectives, to improve and challenge practice in order to better the patient. It has developed my ability to listen and understand what it means to provide humanised care. The patient is the most important aspect of a nurse’s role.

I have learnt so much in the last year and a half – about myself, the job role of the nurse and the role as an advocate. This degree has bettered me as a student and as a person. That lecturer was right all along.

You will change along the way – and you should welcome it.

By Danielle Tirel

Originally published on Nursing Times

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