The last 12 months have taken all of us on a journey through the unknown. It’s been emotional, challenging and extraordinary, but we’ve all got through it in our own way. If anything, it’s been a reminder that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
At the beginning of the pandemic there was a lot of fear, but there was also the magic of communities coming together and remembering our shared humanity. There was a feeling that if we all unite together, we can get through any situation – and so that’s what we did.
Nursing staff and students united and had to adapt like never before. It’s not always been the easiest time to be a nursing student – online lectures, the lack of social interaction, the uncertainty – but I believe it has made us stronger.
It’s obviously been a different experience to a normal third year, but all students should be proud – whichever route we chose or was chosen for us by circumstance. We’ve all had to adjust, reset, and make some difficult decisions – whether in our first, second or third year.
I decided the best thing was to do a paid clinical placement. I was nervous, of course. Would I be placed on a COVID ward? What if I brought COVID home to my family?
We've all had to make some difficult decisions
My initial feelings of anxiety turned to excitement when I was placed in the A&E department at the Royal Gwent in Newport, Wales. I’d done some bank shifts at the hospital as a health care assistant, so it was familiar to me. I was relieved to be offered accommodation in the student village so I could help keep my family safe.
The first week was overwhelming. Everything happened so fast in the lead-up, I didn’t have much time to think of anything, but the minute I moved out it really hit home what lay ahead.
When dealing with the emotional reality of COVID, the important thing for me has always been to keep talking it out with friends and family. Looking after our mental health is so important and there is still a lot to process about the last year.
Living with other students was great because we were all in the same boat. After placement, we’d usually have dinner together and discuss our day. If there was anything that was getting us down, we would support one another and do things to help pick each other up. It felt like sharing a load.
Despite the challenges, there have also been many positives being a student nurse during these times. I picked up so many new skills so quickly and there have been a lot of opportunities to learn. We’ve had to find ways to pull together and deal with the stress and I feel a lot more resilient as a result.
I feel a lot more resilient as a result
Feeling part of a team at the hospital was a high point for me, and being there for patients who were struggling, unable to have any visitors – it meant a lot to be that person who could be there for them in some of their most vulnerable moments. Nothing can replace family, but at least it was something.
If I could go back and talk to myself at the beginning of my third year, I would say: don’t worry, take each day as it comes, and you will overcome every obstacle. It will be worth it.
Now, more than ever, is the time to make sure that as a student or newly qualified nurse, you are looking after yourself. Take a look at the RCN’s subject guide on wellbeing, self-care and resilience.
Want to share your own experiences with RCN Students? Read our tips on writing for publication.