As nursing students, we all have varied reasons for deciding to join a nursing programme.
However, what we all have in common is that by choosing to study, we are entering a three-year programme that will deliver what we need to achieve the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s standards and to be able to evidence that we can work within its code of practice.
“As a student, you need to learn what is available outside of university and how to use it before qualification”
The three years is made up of a blended programme of taught lectures and seminars, times on placements and self-directed study. It is easy to quantify the first two but how much and when should you do the last?
Unfortunately, it is usually overlooked by students, but it can make a stark difference, not only to the classification of the degree you attain, but also to the level of education you curate for yourself.
At your university, you will have access to the physical campus library and its digital offering. You will be shown how to access its online reference library, linked to the modules you are studying. Quite often, especially as a new student, you will be encouraged to just use these facilities and not look elsewhere.
This may enable you to achieve a pass grade in your assignments but is that comprehensive enough and give you the depth of understanding of the principles you will need to know when applying this as a registered practitioner?
Only learning to use the facilities the universities offer raises a problem. However, when you qualify you will no longer have access to these. As a student, you need to learn what is available outside of university and how to use it before qualification.
Your first step is to arrange a visit to the medical library at your local hospital. Discuss with them the course you are studying and ask for advice on how you can make the best use of their facilities.
My library helped me to apply for an NHS Open Athens account. The NHS uses this platform for its ongoing education and information sharing. It has access to many journals and articles and things like Anatomy TV, which is so helpful for visual learners.
I particularly benefited from the NHS Knowledge and Learning Hub. It is what you will learn to use as a qualified professional and gives you access to up-to-date, evidence-based information from around the world.
I found self-directed study particularly helpful during times on placement. Placement experiences vary greatly. You may be in a placement where there may be reduced opportunities to have hands-on nursing experience with patients or limited time with the nurses. This can be disappointing, but if you are a self-directed learner, you are never in a position where you feel you cannot learn.
No one can stop you from seeing or hearing. Using the skills you have learnt as a self-directed learner, you can read around what you saw or heard. This way no moment during your training, especially on placement, will be non-productive.
I heard a quote when I started university which has helped me. “People learn the things that are interesting to them. If you must learn something, find a way to make it interesting to you.”
I wish you all the luck with your nursing journey and don’t forget to visit your local medical library.
Karin Vertue is a BSc nursing student, University of Brighton