Meet Molly, a high achieving 3rd year nursing student in Melbourne and President of her University Nursing and Midwifery Society!

Find her on instagram: @nearlynursemolly

nursing student

Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to pursue nursing?

I currently live in Melbourne, Australia and am studying a Bachelor of Nursing and a Bachelor of Public Health and Health Promotion at Deakin University. I have just finished my third year of study and 2021 will be my fourth and final year!

I have always had an interest in first aid and healthcare, but when I was growing up I dreaded the idea of being a nurse, I thought it was just cleaning up after patients and tidying beds (oh, was I wrong!). It was after completing a year of a Bachelor of Health Science, (and a couple of hospitalisations) I realised that the role a nurse plays is much more than that and nursing can lead you to some very cool opportunities!

What does a nurse do in your perspective?

For me, I think the role of the nurse is to guide a patient through their hospital stay. I think nursing is quite special, as (usually in an acute setting) we are the ones who spend the most amount of time with these patients, and can provide healthcare but also pastoral care and education, which is quite amazing.

So, pretty much as a nursing student, we are taught by basically copying what a nurse in the field would do for day-to-day tasks. Along with caring for multiple patients on our own (with a preceptor), skills I regularly complete on placement include medication administration, intravenous medication administration, patient assessments, wound care, personal care, completing ECGs, stoma care, venepuncture and there is so many more that can be completed in a shift!

What have been some classes you have taken at university and what ones have been your favourite and why?

So far, my favourite unit of study has been our medical-surgical nursing unit and the two paediatric units I have completed. I really enjoyed medical-surgical as the content was well presented, and I found it all starting to make sense, which was very reassuring! In this unit, I had a four-week block of placements too, which solidified my learning. On this placement, I finally started to feel like a nurse and could feel myself thinking ahead, understanding diagnosis, and fully understanding medications and why the patient is receiving them.

The two paediatric units I have completed were also great, one was a psychology elective and the other was a nursing unit. I really love children and I think paediatric nursing is such an interesting area, and so different from adult nursing. These two units set my mind on paediatric nursing and I can’t wait to continue this passion when I graduate!

What are the structure of your classes?

For each unit, there is usually one seminar and one class. I will probably get this wrong because they’re all named different things at my university, but one is more of a discussion and activities that are completed in a classroom setting, and the other is more of a lecture-type format where you learn the content. For some nursing units, I attend simulations (where we practice our clinical skills) which are completed in a simulation lab, set out exactly like a shared room in a hospital ward.

What is a typical week like as a nursing student?

At Deakin, (if I have planned my timetable right!), I usually have around two to three days on campus each week. I am also a fellowship student with Epworth Healthcare, which means I do some of my classes at the hospital instead of at Deakin and complete some of my placements with this organisation too. So usually I have one or two days at Deakin and then one day in class at Epworth.

Where have you had some of your placements, which were your favourites and why?

I have completed three blocks of acute placements, and am waiting to complete a mental health nursing and a community nursing placement before 2021. Wards I have been on include a general medical ward, a gynaecological-surgical ward and an orthopaedic ward. My favourite was the gynaecology-surgical ward as I love this area and was interested in the procedures, histories and care-plans my patients had. I also loved my ortho placement, this was my most recent placement and I felt everything was ‘coming together’, I got into a pattern for the day and got to know the ward, staff and how to care for my patients.

What are some interesting clinical experiences you have had that stuck with you as a nursing student?

I have been so fascinated with every single one of my patients. I think I’m just amazed at what the human body is capable of (I know it sounds so silly) but when I take a step back and look at a presentation, it is so interesting to un-pack it and learn the little details about that patient. One presentation that has stuck with me was a patient who I had been caring for, for a couple of days, she was quite distressed as they were investigating a possible malignancy, and I was looking after her when she was told the results were benign and she just burst into tears and thanked my buddy nurse and I for being with her. It was a very small event at the time (not to the patient, obviously), but surprisingly it has stuck with me, and it makes me realise just how important a nurse is to a patient.

What has surprised you the most about university?

I didn’t realise just how self-guided the university experience is! If you don’t study, no one will get angry or motivate you to push yourself. You really have to set down the hours and time and study for yourself! I also didn’t realise that there is a lot of  ‘background’ knowledge that you need to learn yourself too. On the other hand, I enjoy the freedom university supplies, I like being able to complete a week of work, and then start on the next weeks’ worth of work before that week begins. Something that surprised me about nursing school was that our placements are unpaid. Before I enrolled, I actually thought it was paid work!  (a girl can dream?)

What do you wish you knew before you started studying?

I wish that I spoke to a course advisor at my university to properly map out my degree, as I have found there are quicker ways to get it done or to give yourself a lighter study load by completing a summer unit. I think that is a big advantage to studying and the results you receive.

What tips do you have for future students struggling with assignments?

Make sure you understand the content for that assignment and unit of study! It all correlates, and at the end of the day, the marker just wants to know that you understand the unit and have learnt the themes they are trying to teach.

Send an email to the unit chair or a teacher you have contact with! They are there to help, and they may seem scary, but don’t forget it’s their job to guide and teach you!

When you think you have enough references, maybe add eight to ten more references. Speaking from experience, it is always reported back to me to use more references!

What are some mistakes you or others may have made that you suggest others avoid during studies?

A mistake I have made is related to burn-out. I am a busy person, and often find myself work five days a week, going to uni for one or two days, and then having no time to myself (or to sleep in!). I think especially with COVID-19 and the current situations in healthcare it is super important to learn to recognise when you might need a break or time to reset. I think there is a big stigma in the nursing area (and student nursing area) around calling in sick or taking mental health days, but the reality is, you cannot pour from an empty cup. You will not be able to give your full attention to your patients if you are tired or in the wrong headspace.

What would you say have been your main challenges during your studies?

A big challenge I have faced is failing one of my units in the first year. It was extremely frustrating, and it was only by 3 marks. It was a unit that I loved, and the practical side of it I was doing really well in, but the academic writing side is where I struggle. I overcame this by reminding myself I’m only human and these kinds of setbacks will only make me a better nurse. I re-did the unit the following year and received great results.

Which area’s would you like to work in or specialise in and why?

As mentioned previously, I’m super interested in paeds (as all young nursing students are!). I just think children are so unique and special and have such a different outlook on life. I’d love to be able to help these patients, but also help their families adjust or understand why their child is in hospital, there is so much love between a family and I think it is super powerful! Eventually, I’d like to work in a busy country hospital, I grew up in north-eastern Victoria, and I think rural and remote hospitals can offer so much experience and valuable leadership skills.

How have you financially support yourself during your studies?

I worked part-time at Woolworths for four years whilst completing the majority of my degree. This year I have started more nursing-related work casually in multiple different areas; a first-aid officer in a secondary school, a first-aid officer for my local netball competition league and, most recently, a PPE spotter on SCOVID and COVID wards. I can’t even describe how much this experience helped me with my nursing skills. I found myself learning every day and although it was a challenging environment, I grew from the experience. I am no longer scared of donning and doffing (this is second nature now!)  and being aware of what is ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ is second nature!

It hasn’t been easy, and there are days where I have to push myself to get out of bed, but I just remind myself of my goals (graduating and receiving a graduate year!) and I find that motivates me.

What advice would you give to future students thinking about studying and pursuing a career in your field?

Make sure you’re ok with body fluids, and all the lovely things nursing throws at us! Don’t be afraid of nursing, you can start a nursing degree without any relevant prior knowledge or year twelve subjects.

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