It’s November – the days are getting darker, colder, and shorter but it hasn’t stopped me from enjoying my Student Life! Since my last blog I’ve had the opportunity to visit Cochrane UK to give feedback and ideas on student engagement as well as sneaking dinner and late-night walks in the beautiful, historic city they call home – Oxford (just 50 minutes on the train from London Paddington!)
I learnt to crochet a granny square – putting me one step closer to my dream of donating hand made gifts to the preemies and even found the time to scale 2,087ft of the Peak District’s finest moorland plateau – Kinder Scout.
And of course, not forgetting – securing my Nursing Job! My dream of joining Paediatric (Children’s) Theatres (in my top choice Trust) lined up ready to go 6-7 months before my course finishes!
Looks like I’ve been living the dream, right? Well between those perfect Insta shots the reality of 3rd Year is very much putting my beloved list pads to good use!
Being a Nursing Student today requires wholeheartedly embracing the idea of Evidence Based Medicine – incorporating our best ideas from research and clinical knowledge to offer the very best care we can – which requires as much commitment to our academic learning as to our practice (2300 hours: 2300 hours to be exact!)
If you would like to understand more about Evidence Based Medicine check out Cochrane UK’s video about it on Youtube!
The academic rigour of modern-day nursing can be daunting to some – many students worry that they may struggle with the academic component of the course – a concern I certainly hear expressed by potential applicants more so than concerns about under-performing on placement.
Even for the academically driven, the Nursing Programme itself – with its fluctuating schedules and long placement hours can sometimes present itself as a real juggling act of shifting priorities.
Over the last two years my academic practice and learning methods have taken some refining and in places radical changes to generate those all-important results. So, for this month’s blog I took a little time out – with my Christmas blend coffee and my favourite caramel shortbread to ponder my top ten tips for effective study as a Student Nurse!
Remember: Everybody is different! We all learn in very different ways and all ten of my suggestions have aided me personally in my Nursing Studies – they might not all fit your style. However, I urge you to try new techniques, and engage with and develop your learning style over time. A change is as good as a rest as they say!
Study Tip #1: Maintain a Social Life – It’s very tempting when those Assignment Deadlines are looming to convince yourself that even thinking of having fun will drop your grade a classification and bring forth all doom! My favourite response to this is – last Christmas (2017) I spent a week in Amsterdam (that’s 222 miles away from my Anatomy & Physiology Exam Notes) and I still made the grade! Now I’m not at all suggesting tossing away your current module and submitting yourself to a week of Stroopwafels, cheese and a tiny pair of souvenir clogs will fix your study problems. The take home message here is – you are only human – and humans are social beings that thrive on interaction – so much so there’s whole degree programmes out there studying this very trait! So, get up, stretch, leave the room – have food with your flat mates, get yourself out to Zumba, go to the pub quiz, take the bus all the way to Oxford Street for a cookie you and your friend could have had down the road. For non-local students – book that train home for a weekend! Take that break, enjoy yourself and return to that assignment feeling refreshed! Get the balance right!
Top Tip: I colour code my diary!
- BLUE = Placement
- YELLOW = University
- PINK = Paid Work
- GREEN = Events/Classes (e.g. Conferences, Extra Sessions, Gym Classes)
- ORANGE = Everything I love in life!
That way I get a sweet little overview of how balanced my life is! Yes, my orange zone some weeks might just be Great British Bake Off and WhatsApp but – if it generates conversation, gives me a giggle and gets me away from my desk then it’s worth pencilling in! It’s as worthy as all those deadlines and working hours.
Study Tip #2: Looking after number one! My Personal Tutor always likes to remind me that you can’t truly care for others unless you first care for yourself. In fact, self-care is a developing phenomenon within Nursing as many believe optimum self-care helps build the resilience needed to handle the demands of the profession.
- Eat well – BBC Good Food is a fab starting point! Carry healthy snacks and always try and prepare that nutritious lunch the night before – a fab way to stick to your budget and maintain a balanced diet in one!
- Exercise – Keeping active can be a well-planned energy boost! If I’m feeling sluggish and my mind is drifting – I close my books and head to the gym or for a lap of Hampstead Heath. You don’t have to be the next Athletic Union Rep to boss this! Download Couch 2 5k, try a YouTube Yoga class or even just take a brisk walk outside.
- Sleep – As a Student Nurse we know how important sleep is for your health – yet somehow a lot of us seem to be pulling all-nighters on academic work? Your brain needs rest too! Try and get to bed on time – avoid getting pulled into that next episode of Netflix/next chapter of that book you’re reading, by setting yourself a “Go to Bed” alarm as well as a “Wake Up” one.
Study Tip #3: Alternative sources of learning – We have our lectures and additional resources loaded onto the University Moodle, but I have been a lot more experimental outside of the standard reading list. For my Anatomy & Physiology Module I loved the Ross & Wilson textbook and purchased the accompanying workbook with fill the gaps, colouring pages and questions for less than £20 on Amazon. I also drew upon YouTube for all manner of videos – everything from five-minute crash courses of the body systems to allowing The Muppets to explain phenomenology (I’m serious – check it out). I’ve also been a keen follower of Podcasts – filling my Tube journey with easy listen learning from – Nursing Standard, Spotting the Sick Child, The Resus Room, AskMatron, and my all-time favourite – Two Paeds in a Pod!
Study Tip #4: Flash Cards and Voice Recording – Our busy schedules and commuting times make flashcards the ideal study companion – in my first year I even laminated my favourites to sit on the bike at the gym. Keeping both my legs and brain active – and it seemed to work! When talking to prospective students about self-study at University I also like to draw on my old time favourite and too often disregarded revision technique. Reading notes aloud and recording them so that you can listen to them anywhere! On my previous degree programme, I used to get one of my best friends to read my notes on my behalf, so I could listen to his fantastic Glaswegian accent and enjoy his lack of knowledge of Medicinal Chemistry in him trying to get his tongue around drug and chemical name pronunciations. I found his mispronunciations helped me to remember a great deal more than I could have achieved myself – I knew what he was trying to say, and it gave me a bit of a laugh (so much so I must confess there were a few obviously fictional prescriptions thrown in there! Flamingomycin – that mystery antibiotic!)
Study Tip #5: Make a cuppa and settle down for some extra reading – Lecturers often refer to further sources of relevant information in their teaching sessions. You can also access recommended link texts, journal articles and web pages both through the reading list and the modules Moodle page. Take the time out and dedicate it to going over some of these extra recommendations – they may help you with an idea for your assignment or prove useful to refer to later when out on placement. They’re endorsing it for a reason!
Study Tip #6: Engage with the extra support on offer! – City University offers a vast variety of study workshops – referencing, note taking, revision methods, literature reviews…whatever is troubling you – there’s a workshop for that! You can even book a 1:1 appointment with a Writing Advisor through Academic Learning Support or with your dedicated Subject Librarian. These sessions are designed to aid your success and these dedicated learning staff are there to help you it’s their job! Help them to help you.
Study Tip #7: Talk it out – Sometimes assignment ideas seem to behave rather like my headphones do when I leave them unattended – a tangled mess that I can’t make sense of. I’ve found calling a friend – someone not on the course – often someone with no knowledge of nursing and talking about my ideas generally really useful. When explaining a topic out loud to someone with no prior knowledge you often find new connections and ways to articulate your ideas that help you put pen to paper. Avoid discussing ideas (unless directed through lecturers) with fellow cohort members as you can often unintentionally put yourself at risk of Academic Misconduct/Plagiarism.
Study Tip #8: Make positive use of Social Media – No, I’m not talking about sharing breath taking pictures of beaches accompanied by a motivational quotes/mantra to live your life by. I’m talking about following professional groups like the Nursing & Midwifery Council, the Institute of Health Visiting, the Kings Fund, Public Health England, Cochrane (I could go on forever!) on Social Media to keep on top of current policy and guidance, as well as following peers studying Nursing and other Allied Health degrees who may share posts or ideas helpful to your own studies. Tweet chats and Student led Twitter pages such as @WeStudentNurse and @StNurseProject are a fab starting point for engaging with Twitter. Just today on Twitter, I found a blog to support my understanding of statistics, a document about the use of Quality Improvement in Health Care and a date/time for an upcoming Student Tweet Chat all about Dissertation.
Before engaging on Social Media, professional or otherwise, take the time to review the NMC Guidance on Social Media: https://www.nmc.org.uk/standards/guidance/social-media-guidance/
Study Tip #9: Prevention is better than a cure – If you are struggling with an assignment or the ideas addressed in a module, it’s likely this won’t be resolved if you choose to address it 48 hours before your deadline/exam. Pounce on your problems early! Don’t understand how to reference in the University style – contact a librarian. Personal circumstances impacting on your ability to study – contact your Personal Tutor. Think that you may benefit from Dyslexia/Dyspraxia testing – contact Learning Success at your earliest opportunity. Addressed early, adjustments can be put into place, support can be given and problems more easily resolved. Don’t sit on your issues waiting for them to hatch! Equally University level study is more independent in nature and you are expected to put in the effort/leg work. Turn up to a lecturer, having not accessed Moodle or undertaken any independent effort of reading/learning, and they are unlikely to support you. Give everything your best and they will likely be delighted to support you that step further!
Study Tip #10: Follow your heart! – In Second Year, I found myself straying from the crowd with my essay topic. I was warned against it by friends, I doubted myself for many weeks and almost gave in…but I was passionate about my chosen issue and I’m stubborn – so I stuck with it. I came out with a fantastic grade!
If you have a genuine interest in a topic, you enjoy reading about it and can talk for England on it – it’s likely that dedication will show in your work and ultimately in your result! The most frequently shared piece of advice for choosing a dissertation remains – choose something you enjoy! Embrace that in as many academic assignments as you can, and you won’t go far wrong!
And that’s all folks – ten top tips that have so far supported my study success (and long may it continue!) I’ll be back again in December to report on the BSc Child Nursing Selection Day ahead of that all important UCAS Deadline (15th January 2019 for 2019/20 entry).