Nursing is consistently ranked as the single most trusted profession. Not only do outstanding nurses provide medical support in a variety of settings, but also emotional and social support. This requires a deep level of personal development.
There are common traits that most great students display, such as time efficiency and self-reflection, but for student and graduate nurses, some attributes are more crucial than others. If you’re not fond of the ethos ‘Ps get degrees’, you’ll want to work harder and smarter to stand out from the crowd.
1. Know your skill level
It’s important to know what you don’t know. While it’s prudent to practise in line with your existing knowledge and skills, the safest approach is to know your limitations and seek reliable, evidence-based sources of information. Having an appropriate understanding of anatomy and physiology will put you at a distinct advantage. Prioritising this aspect of your study is central to knowing your skill level, and subsequently your ability to assess clinical risk – whether it’s in the classroom or the patient’s room.
In the classroom – When a student nurse falls behind in their grades, it’s often due to knowledge gaps. While some students preconceive the course material to be purely care-based in the emotional sense (which boils down to your empathy and interpersonal skills), it’s actually an adjunct to your practical and physiological nous.
A&P is the foundational unit for the rest of your study and only gets more intense throughout your studies.
You’ll likely find that practical classes are never long enough, so when you find a particular skill challenging, book in additional simulation time and refer back to your student resources.
In the clinical setting – Each time you’re placed with a new buddy nurse or preceptor, your introduction should cover your scope of practice, previous clinical experience and the depth of your theoretical knowledge. This will help your buddy assign you tasks or patients appropriate to your confidence and skill level.
In grad year and beyond – Like most industries, your reputation will be built on competency. Continuing to develop your knowledge and skills will earn you greater respect and more opportunity. Many healthcare providers also require additional skill certifications once you secure a graduate position, ensuring that their nursing staff have an equivalent skill level. In the end, it’s to your advantage and the advantage of your patients.
2. Be willing to adapt
You’re not always going to like certain areas of study, certain facilities, or certain people. The important thing to remember is that these things, in the short-term, are secondary to your willingness to adapt.
In the classroom – It’s reasonable to expect that a portion of your coursework will induce frustration or disillusionment. Developing coping strategies is a great tactic for keeping your eyes on the end-goal if this situation should arise.
You could find an interesting angle, start a discussion about the importance of the coursework or have a quiet chat to your lecturer about your concerns.
In the clinical setting – Each placement will vary, sometimes dramatically. Chances are you’ll have at least one that makes you feel uncomfortable, intimidated or bored. No matter who or what you encounter, your ability to adapt and seek learning opportunities will determine your overall experience. If you see something unethical or that makes you feel uneasy, contact a member of your faculty for advice.
In grad year and beyond – Adaptation is not only expected, but necessary for a nurse. You will likely encounter difficult people, situations and policies on a regular basis, so learning to negotiate these things without compromising your professionalism or integrity will be crucial to your workplace satisfaction.
3. Ask questions and seek feedback
You may think, to quote Mark Twain, that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to talk and remove all doubt – but you’d be wrong. Communication is your most valued tool as a nurse, so it’s best to start early.
In the classroom – Get into the habit of seeking clarification. If you’re a little reserved, find a student discussion board or a mentor rather than leaving crucial questions unanswered. You will be expected to participate in class discussions, which is a perfect place to explore your knowledge gaps and build confidence.
In the clinical setting – A constant feedback loop between you and your clinical facilitator will allow for optimal trust, communication and progress. It will also show your enthusiasm and willingness to learn. You won’t be expected to know or understand everything, but you will be expected to show initiative and curiosity.
No two patients are alike. You’ll encounter a unique combination of medical history, medications, reason for admission or attendance, severity of symptoms, comorbidities, lifestyle factors and specific treatments.
If a patient report includes an unfamiliar term, medication or condition, ask your facilitator for more information in order to prioritise the needs of your patient/s. It’s also advisable to request feedback at the end of each shift. This approach will go a long way in your clinical assessments.
In grad year and beyond – Feedback can determine your nursing future. Your grad interview will include a review of your clinical assessments, reflecting all of those questions and demonstrations of competency.
You’ll have come to think of ‘care’ as a multifaceted approach, incorporating integrity, empathy, depth of knowledge and refined practical skills.
You may have achieved adequate grades throughout your coursework, but the feedback will need to shine if you want to have an advantage over competing graduates and secure your grad position of choice!
The very best practising nurses have the ability to call on these attributes at will, despite time constraints, multiple call bells, questions from family or colleagues and the tendency for everything to go wrong simultaneously.
Think you have what it takes? Consider our Nursing courses.