Congratulations on being accepted to study nursing at university! You made it through the slog of exams and assignments to get the grades, submitted the UCAS application with the dreaded personal statement, and passed a nerve wrecking interview to finally make it onto the degree. At this stage now the most common question is “what can I do to prepare before I start my course?” along with “what do I need to buy?” & “what books should I read?”
This post will tell you the NUMBER 1 THING TO DO before you start!
Around this time of year many people will start to struggle to keep up their New Year’s resolutions and goals. Whether it’s to quit smoking or exercise daily, most people’s resolutions focus around improving their health in some way. Maybe in the beginning you had a plan and were excited about starting and really committed to making lasting change. But now a few weeks in that enthusiasm has dwindled to say the least, and it’s getting harder and harder to keep your commitment and resist temptation.
However the most important thing you can do before starting your nursing degree is to keep that New Year’s resolution to improving your health….and stick with it!
If you can establish healthy habits now, they will see you through when you start the course. I’m sure you’ve already been warned how tough the course is, how stressful being a student nurse is, and all of you will be anxious about starting no matter what your background experience is.
The key to making it through the tough times and handling the inevitable stress is a strong foundation. Research has shown time and time again that regular exercise and a healthy diet not only improves your immune system and your stamina, but also has a positive effect on mental health.
Now I’m not saying you have to be iron man or woman before you start your degree and for anyone thinking “I’ll have to lose weight then,” your number on the scale doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unfit. But by eating a healthy varied diet you can build up a better immune system, which will help fight against new exposure to illnesses when you first start clinical placement. By building up your strength and fitness now, you will find it easier working busy 12 hour shifts on the wards. And by already making it a habit to destress after a difficult day by going for a walk outside, or swim some lengths at the pool, your head will be clearer for taking on the next challenge.
The key to success is finding out now what works for you and what you enjoy doing. It’s no good saying “I’m going to start going to the gym everyday” if you hate the gym and would much rather go to yoga with friends or ride your bike for an hour instead. Once you find an activity or fitness regime you enjoy it will be much easier to stick to. There are also millions of free resources online to help with improving your nutrition and to eat healthily. Again you just need to find one that works for you and that you enjoy and you can stick to it.
Yes making all these changes is hard, but don’t give up. Just keep going until these changes become habits and you will find it much easier to transition them into student nurse life, than trying to make these changes once you’re already at Uni. So many people find once they start their degree they struggle to make time to exercise and eat well, often having to choose quick and easy meals which aren’t always the healthy ones. The quicker you can build healthy habits into your daily routine now, the easier it will be to carry them through, and they will carry you through your degree in return.
Let me know what you think and any questions you would like me to answer. Would you like more advice on self-care for student nurses? Has fitness made an impact on your mental health? Comment below to share your story or any advice you might have for other student nurses x