We interview Jessica Lambert, a final year nursing student at the University of Tasmania about her nursing studies. She gives some great pieces of advice that all nursing students should read.

West Africa to Nursing Studies

Hi! My name is Jessica Lambert and I’m a 22-year-old nursing student living in Tasmania, studying at the University of Tasmania (UTAS). I am in my final year of study and aim to graduate in December! I chose to study nursing because of my unusual upbringing. I lived halfway across the world in West Africa on a ship called the ‘Africa Mercy’. The ship was an old ferry that had been converted in a hospital, travelling all around Africa giving free healthcare. I spent 8 years with this organisation which led me to experiencing so many beautiful stories of healing and growth that I knew when I returned to Australia, I had to pursue Nursing!

nursing studies
Jessica Rothwell, Academy Senior.

When I entered nursing school, I knew the emergency department was my goal, but as I’ve studied further my interest in mental health has sparked. A fun fact about me is that I am not the only nursing student living in my household! My husband is in his 1st year of the full-time nursing degree, obviously inspired by yours truly ;).

When I talk about being a nurse I could go on for hours, but to pinpoint my main reason why I chose this career is because I never want to see anyone feel uncared for. Whether you want a warm blanket, the 12th trip to the toilet or in excruciating pain, I will always be there to advocate and support them.

Study and assignment tips

A typical week as a student looks a little different at UTAS. We have a partial program where some of our weeks are spent online, and some spent in the classroom. We usually communicate with our lecturers via discussion boards or in online zoom calls. Because of this I find that assignments sneak up on you. Usually, these assignments land around the time we attend face-to-face classes so getting everything done whilst travelling to campus can get a bit tricky!

As a first-year student, I didn’t take time to prepare for class, but as I have studied further, I have developed ways to make the most out of my classes. The first way is making sure I check my unit outline to ensure I am up to date on content. Number two is ensuring my computer is full charged and I have my notebooks and pens handy. Thirdly, I bring a learning attitude! With this I prepare some questions to ask teachers while talking in person. Lastly, I ensure I schedule in enough time to hit the uni café! Coffee has got me through this degree!

What do you wish someone had told you before you started

Before starting my course, I wish someone would have told me how intense this is. With nursing comes sacrifice, generally, people who are not in nursing will not understand how much time this course takes up. This career is very practical, but also, we study very in-depth into the human body and the ethics behind nursing, this was something unexpected for me.

Mistakes you’ve made

Like everyone I have made many mistakes throughout my nursing journey, but that’s what makes us great nurses, isn’t it? I have crammed for exams and that feeling isn’t great! Making sure I study early is something I have had to learn. Another mistake I have made is not reading my placement guidelines thoroughly enough. The rules given to students are put in place on purpose and disregarding these can directly impact your journey to RN! Lastly, not taking care of myself is a big flaw! Nursing is tough, studying is hard, and this degree is long. Make sure you listen to your body and put yourself before your studies.

Assignment tips

Struggling with assignments is completely normal, I have always struggled with the writing portion of university. I usually prefer in person tasks over a 1500-word paper, though I’ve made it this far so if someone’s going to give you advice it’ll be me!

  1. Never leave your assignments to the last minute! I am guilty of this for sure and it has never worked out well! This isn’t high school; we now are researching very in-depth topics!
  2. Make sure you double check your references!
  3. If you don’t succeed, try again! Sometimes you need to erase full paragraphs and that’s okay!
  4. Find some friends who study the same subjects as you and ask each other questions. Sometimes you may feel lost on a topic and confirming your answers with someone else may just be the comfort you need (though remember academic integrity!)
  5. Don’t be afraid to email your teachers, they are there to help!

There have been a lot of challenges in nursing school but starting with COVID-19. Putting my whole degree online was certainly not something I signed up for. I overcame this situation and the negative feelings by speaking to others in my situation and understanding what they are doing to accommodate the new study style! My other major challenge that many face is working whilst doing uni. In my second year of uni (the most full on year), I got two jobs. The juggle between life/ work and uni wasn’t there, learning how to work around this was certainly difficult, but achievable.

What has surprised you

Many things have surprised me in nursing, though the main, probably most relatable thing is the public lack of knowledge about what tasks nurses perform. Though caring tasks are extremely important, it is not all we do. We are critical thinkers and patient advocates, without nurses, healthcare wouldn’t exist!

If I started my degree over again, I would choose to set myself a better routine, though some of this can be blamed on the transition from on campus to online. When working at home it is easy to be distracted so trying to find the best way to study took time, but since finding it I have been able to achieve more!


I have had 4 placements so far: medical ward, GP clinic, aged care and emergency department. My favourite has been the ED because it has been a dream to work there, and I felt like I learnt more skills in those weeks then I had in my whole degree. I am grateful for each placement though as each taught me vital parts of nursing.

On my first ever placement I had just begun my second shift on medical ward and a patient had a MET call (medical emergency team call), on them because they were unresponsive. This event has stuck with me throughout my degree because watching the flow of Doctors, Nurses and other team members was like watching a dance. A little first-year standing in the corner in awe of the fast-acting, patient-orientated treatment.

My 5 tips to ace your first placement would be:
  1. If possible, visit the outside of your placement location. Familiarize yourself with the parking, entrance, and drive from your home.
  2. Make a meal plan. You’ll be working full-time and learning so much, so fuelling your body correctly is necessary.
  3. A personal preference of mine, I like to put my personal life on hold (except weekends). I like to let my close friends know I won’t be available and schedule meetings on the weekend. This allows you the comfort to rest during the week without guilt of not answering messages or seeing people.
  4. Introduce yourself to everyone and anyone! Sate your name and year to every person you work with because being called “student” is not going to make for a fun placement.
  5. Ensure you know your scope of practice, each year, and each placement it changes. Keep up with the change!
And now we’ve talked about what to do, lets look at 5 things NOT to do:
  1. If it’s not your scope, do not do it! Listen to yourself, not your nurse. Not all nurses have memorised each year levels scope of practice.
  2. If you haven’t performed a task before and you’re uncomfortable then let your nurse know and ask for help!
  3. Don’t fall into the trendy shoes, find something that is comfortable, this mean it isn’t always going to be pretty!
  4. Don’t forget to drink, as students we are there to learn, not to be dehydrated. Even if your nurse hasn’t had a drink, doesn’t mean you can’t go get one!
  5. Do NOT underestimate your skills. You know what you have learnt, and you have been trusted to go onto this placement, show off your skills, but always be willing to learn.

My Job: AIN (Assistant in Nursing)

Where do I begin? I LOVE my job! It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I work on the same medical work I did my first placement on with patient that have dementia and delirium. Often, I look after anywhere between 1-4 patients. Some may say I’m crazy, but I only work night shifts (currently writing this on a night shift). It took sometimes to develop a routine, but now the shifts fit perfectly into my life.

Overnight I generally watch four patients, sometimes this can be alone or with another AIN. If the patients aren’t sleeping, then they are often very confused and are looking for some reassurance that they are in the right place. I use de-escalation skills to ensure the safety of myself and other patients. This is usually because someone is hallucinating and cannot identify reality.

Some of the tasks I perform are personal hygiene, vital signs, feeding and fluids. I am also watching patients that receive thickened fluids or are on fluid balance charts. It is important to have good knowledge of your patients as generally I am alone in the room and the nurse, I am paired with has 4 other patients besides the 4 we share. I often find myself identifying problems and sharing them with the RN. And at end each shift with a handover to the morning staff AINs.

This job has helped me learn so much. I have gained so much confidence in my knowledge and in my communication with patients and nurses. I must trust myself when reporting negative symptoms my patient may have, I have to trust that I know what is going on and that my patient is not acting the way they usually do.

Your first-time showering someone or changing a pad can be a bit awkward and may take a long time, but the more you do the faster you are the easier it will feel. As a student it is easy to lean on your preceptors for information and knowledge, but as an AIN you must trust yourself and remember you know far more then you believe, especially since we spend the most quality time with patients. I also love that this job has given me the opportunity to work within a multidisciplinary team. Doctors often speak to me if a patient I am watching has issues as I have usually watched the whole thing unfold.


Nobody talks much about failure or more specifically failure in nursing school. We see high-achieving students excel and be represented to the masses (as they should because they’ve worked hard), but what about someone who tried their hardest but didn’t receive a high distinction? Life doesn’t stop when entering nursing school.

Personally, the first semester of my third year was the toughest yet. I was mixed around with placements, went through many long and scary meetings with university administration and because of said meeting and mix-ups I neglected a whole class and just scraped by the exam. I also had a close friend move away, had the same friend move back and into my house (a big adjustment) and lastly had someone very close to me be diagnosed with something scary (for privacy we will leave it at that). I was stuck in Tasmania and my family was in Queensland, I struggled.

At the end of my semester, I had excepted failure. I understood what was to come and I accepted this because sometimes life comes before school. Yes, nursing is my dream, but sometimes other commitments or unexpected surprises get in the way. During this time, I blamed myself and talked down to myself, but as time went on I understood more and more that I was not alone in this journey. I spoke to multiple people who had been in a similar situation and even though I didn’t know the outcome of my grade yet, I felt soothed.

Nursing school might feel like everything, but in the long run, it won’t disappear and if a break is needed then take it. Thankfully I was able to pass my units and move on, this means graduation 2022!

Accepting that nursing school is hard, but life is so much harder can be difficult. I am not saying prepare yourself for failure, but I am saying don’t be scared! We live and we learn, and you have your whole life to achieve your goals.