Nursing student Cristina Velez, currently in her second-year at University of Wollongong, shares her experience.
What drew you to nursing?
I never thought I wanted to, or could be, a nurse, but during my studies in high school, I developed a passion for health and understanding the human body. Talking to my mum, who herself was a registered nurse, and listening to all the experiences and different positions she held, sparked my interest. I loved the idea of the different pathways and opportunities I could have through nursing.
How was your first year as a student nurse?
I really enjoyed my first year of university: the classes, my placements and even the assessments. After feeling a bit lost with what I wanted to do in life, I was very happy it worked out. It felt very affirming that I was enjoying my degree, the content and experiences. It was definitely what I hoped, and imagined, it would be.
What does a typical week look like for you?
This semester, I’ve been starting my week with my practical class on Monday morning and then spending the day at uni on Tuesday attending all my tutorial classes. I’ve been dedicating Thursday and Friday to uni work, whether it be studying, completing assessments or my module work.
This semester, I’ve started giving myself at least one day fully off, usually a Wednesday. Throughout COVID restrictions and doing uni from home, it was so easy to do uni all day, every day, which wasn’t sustainable or reasonable.
I try to do something I love like going to the beach or for a walk, meeting with friends or spending time with my mum. When you do the things you love, it gives you the opportunity for a break and helps you feel energised and be more productive with your work.
Throughout the week or weekend, I’m also doing other things like running errands or going to appointments, being active; going to my Pilates class or the gym, working at my before and after school care job whenever I can, catching up with family or friends, reading a good book or watching a good show. But each week looks different!
What impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on your studies and placements?
I was lucky as my first semester remained normal before the second COVID wave hit.
Going into my second semester, we moved to online learning. It was very different and an adjustment but I ended up really enjoying the structure. Unfortunately, during this semester, we were unable to attend our practical classes and doing that aspect online was very interesting, but also quite challenging.
Going into my second year, we remained online first semester, which was all right, because I was used to this and enjoyed the structure. Luckily, we were able to go into uni to attend our practical classes, which made the biggest difference.
I’ve now returned to campus fully this semester, which has been good to experience the uni lifestyle, be able to meet new people and have that social interaction.
What have your clinical placements been like?
I’ve been very lucky to have had positive experiences during my clinical placements. I’ve been placed at great hospitals, with some amazing nurses, who’ve shown, taught and encouraged me to practice lots of my clinical skills.
The biggest takeaway I’ve had through my placements is discovering what nurse I want to be. I have had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, some really knowledgeable and skilled nurses (and tutors), who amaze me, and this is the nurse I would like to be.
Do you have any tips for students beginning clinical placements?
Be prepared, both physically, mentally and emotionally!
As new nursing students, you’re not used to the structure and it can be a big adjustment. It can be really draining but that’s completely normal! Make sure you have things implemented to help yourself, like good food, hydration, sleep, and self-care activities for your mental health. It all makes the biggest difference and keeps you energised.
What’s your best piece of advice for first-year nursing students?
Be (or try your best to be) organised!
The biggest takeaway I found was in order to succeed I needed to be organised. I love a big monthly calendar that sits on my desk that I can visually see every day. I write everything on there; assessment dates, class times, work shifts, social events, appointments, or exercise classes. This really helps me to stay organised and manage my time to the fullest, and not forget anything! But find what system works best for you!
What do you want to specialise in?
I want to continue my studies into midwifery, as I would love to support mothers during their pregnancy and seeing new life be born. I have also always loved children, which has led me to working in before and after school care. This is why I am also thinking about working in paediatrics. Either way, I would love to integrate both my passions of working with children and health together.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew before you began the course?
It’s okay not to know everything! Nursing requires lifetime learning and there will always be more to learn and even re-learn… and how stressed out I’d be!
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