‘We can feel like we’re working to the bone’: What it’s like being a student nurse

Having any kind of social life is a running joke

This week saw the end of the NHS bursary, meaning nurses, midwifes and other health students will no longer be able to have help with their tuition fees whilst we basically work a full-time job.

No one can truly understand the world of student nursing until it is your life. The occupation is all about sacrifice due to how mentally and physically draining the course is. Of course, we love it, but the end of bursaries means hundreds of nurses will no longer be able to financially juggle studying and the job they love.

Our degree is draining – this is why we need all the help we can get.

The NHS bursary makes us feel like we’re not working to the bone

I know people are happy to pay for the degree, and the bursary isn’t an issue for some. This is what I originally thought, but when you are a student nurse every little helps, especially when you waste half of your bursary on transport into university, or to placement.

“You get paid for this right?”

“You get paid for this right” is something we all hear way too much. But no, we do not have a wage – that is the point of the bursary. Without it I would feel like somebody’s slave. On placement, we get worked to the bone. Some of us could be helping save someone’s life and giving CPR, changing somebody’s post-op dressings, or assisting someone with their personal care and drug rounds. Should this all be done for free, and the student nurses receive nothing?

Nurses understand it is a learning opportunity, but we are all still humans with lives and families to support. It’s unfathomable how people applying for September 2017/18 are going to manage, especially if they have children, or must quit their jobs because they are full time students now.

Preparation for practice is dreaded because we all know that’s the start of 4am alarm bells

Placement plays a huge part in all our nursing careers – some will be incredible, and some will be dreaded. What people don’t realise is waking up 4:30am every morning, five days in a row for six weeks, and catch three different means of transport to get to your placement is exhausting, even to say out loud. Most of us have a job and family to work around also, which is mentally and physically consuming.

Dealing with death and different patients is tough

Each placement is a journey and we all gain a valuable learning experience from. From dealing with deaths on a regular basis, to violent patients shouting and trying to hit you – we see it all. A new day means new situations, new patients and you brush yesterday off and leave it behind.

We face struggles as one big family

As a cohort we are mixed. Even though we all come from different backgrounds and age groups, we all understand the struggle of being a student nurse and this is what binds us all as one. People come into a career of nursing because they want to care and help people in need.

Some people have families to juggle, as well as being full-time

Not everyone can make it through the hurdles which are thrown at you as a student nurse. Over half of the cohort are mature students who have families to look after and jobs to maintain, so juggling personal matters alongside placements and exams isn’t easy.

Having any kind of social life is a running joke

If we don’t have placement, we are in uni 9pm-5pm, five days a week to learn the theory which goes hand-in-hand with our practice. There is no time for lunches with friends, nights out, sports days. Any spare minute we get will most likely be spent sleeping or in bed. We secretly resent other students for finishing in May or June.

Our summer holiday is super short

Unfortunately for nurses, we do not finish for summer till mid-August, so we have to watch our friends go travelling half way across the world while we have 5am starts and night shifts on placement. Regular fallouts with people close to us about how we cannot make it to their events because we have placement is just the norm now.

But, it’s the life we have chosen – and we wouldn’t have it any other way

Putting aside the endless early morning rises, the stress of which placement we will have next, or the physical and mental draining that comes with our degree, it is the life we have chosen and with good reason.

Being part of someone’s care in their life will never be forgotten, and there will come a time as a student nurse where a patient, or staff member training you, will give you a comment simple as “that was an amazing job well done”.

All the tiredness and stress you have felt will lift off your shoulders, and you remember why you are a nurse. The things you are trusted to do as a student nurse makes you feel overwhelmingly privileged to be a one.