Three weeks in and the training wheels are most definitely off, in a theoretical sense at least. Week one was an introduction to the university, the resources and the faculty. Week two was getting to grips with the software and the delivery systems, an overview of the course, and our first toe dip into lectures and homework. Week three we were basically dunked headfirst beneath an ocean of information and deadlines. For anyone wondering about the workload for the MSc in nursing, well it is extreme. The learning curve is like a sheer cliff face, and this is coming from someone who has already done a masters. Nursing is something else completely. The knowledge base for nursing is immense, and although at this point, I am still just skimming the surface of it, it is a daunting and headache-inducing prospect. So immense is the breadth of knowledge that we visit each topic just once. I realise that it being a master’s does imply a certain amount of self-discipline and pre-existing academic aptitude, but there is a lot of self-guided study required. Not that the lectures aren’t thorough because they are, but that the knowledge base is so large that there would be no way of covering everything in just two years. You need to read; you need to study.
Before we had even started induction week, we were already made aware of the first exam and essay dates, and their consequent resit dates. So, there was that looming over us from before day one, and then the first module which is titled, ‘The Developing Nurse’. This module, although done on its own, is basically your complete breakdown of nursing. This includes anatomy and physiology, nursing theory, nursing history, communication, legislation and policy, safeguarding, pharmacology, consent and capacity, moving and handling, person-centred care, risk management, health and safety and basic life-saving skills. And I’m just skimming the surface there, because there is still so much more. And then before Christmas, the first essay and exam. If there is one word of advice I would give anyone beginning a nursing degree it is ‘ORGANISATION’. Be organised, there will be so much information thrown at you that you will easily become overwhelmed and panic. However and whatever you need to do in order to stay organised, do it. And don’t underestimate the amount of work there will be that you will need to organise. From separating all the different topics up, to ensuring you have all the pre-session work and post-session work done, to keeping track of days in university and days at home, what time lectures are, when you have occupational health appointments, bus times, finance payments, revision notes, personal tutor meetings, cohort meetings, Microsoft teams meetings, unimail, collaborate times, gin time, e-learning dates, printable workbooks, journal entries, programme conferences, did I mention gin time?
Get yourself a diary, a big one. Get plenty of note pads and pens. Quite often I find myself working on my desktop computer, my laptop, my tablet, mobile phone and a couple of notepads at the same time. Which leads me on to desk space. I found out very quickly that the desk space I had prepared myself was nowhere near big enough. I have no spread across the room and take up most of the back of the lounge. By the end of week three I had also bought additional chair cushions, armrest cushions, a screen raiser, desk tidy, wrist support and a new bag. You are going to be behind a desk a lot, and you will very quickly become uncomfortable. It’s only natural that after hours on end everyday sat at a desk you will get neck ache, back ache, and put on a stone in cake weight. Consequently, I found myself one day purchasing both a Fitbit and a McDonalds. One to make me more aware of my immobility and encourage me to be more active, the other to cheer me up.
Amongst all the heavy workload, and still working two shifts a week as a therapy assistant, and the social anxiety of having to leave the house after six months of near complete lock-down, I found myself in the nurse’s office at university receiving various immunisations, leaving me with weak and aching arms. Now I’m not a great fan of needles, in fact I hate them, which may leave you asking why then I would want to be a nurse…believe me it has crossed my mind. But despite the needles I like everything else. I was hoping that by the time I graduate they would have invented some pain-free needle alternative like a sticky patch or some magical sensor – I’m looking at you Elon Musk. Fingers crossed.
I found today that our university had been blessed with a visit by the Duchess of Cambridge, apparently to speak with first year nursing students about the impact on studying during a pandemic. I am intrigued as to why I was not invited for this tete-e-tete being both a first-year nursing student, and student rep for my course. In fact, I was not even aware of her visit, nor were any other first year students I know. Makes you wonder who she did talk to. Anyway, the week ended and I found myself with a mountain of study to climb and a rather persistent stress headache. But you know what, I’m really glad I’m doing what I am. Three weeks down and eighty-nine to go. You hear that Elon, the clocks ticking.