“Shattered but proud”, a day in the life of a student nurse

A student nurse

It’s 5am and my alarms are blaring telling me it’s time to get up for another shift. Early starts with late finishes might be the norm as a student nurse but they don’t get any easier.

I get up and quickly have a bath before putting on my uniform. Despite the public attacks on the NHS and all the bad press there’s always a sense of pride when I clip on my NHS name badge.

Because of poor public transport links I have to leave my flat at half five to get to the hospital for my 7am start. I walk half an hour and catch two buses leaving just about enough time to drop my bag off and have a quick cuppa before shift starts.

I’m currently on placement in accident and emergency.

Just as handover is about to begin the red phone rings which indicates from an ambulance crew that someone who is suffering with potentially life threatening injuries is being brought in. I assist in getting the resuscitation area ready to allow the crew straight in, and just after seven they arrive.

First job

Unfortunately the patient has been receiving CPR for nearly an hour and a half and the doctor, in agreement with everyone else, calls for a stop to the CPR and announces the patient’s death. My first job of the day is to prepare the patient for the mortuary. It’s just gone 8am.

Me and my mentor are working in the ambulance triage area. This involves taking a handover from the ambulance crew and performing an initial assessment before a patient can be seen by the doctor. This is very fast paced – because of targets and staffing levels it’s pretty much in-out.

Over the course of the next couple of hours there are a couple of elderly patients who are confused as to why they’re in hospital. It breaks my heart to see them left on a stretcher in the corridor waiting for a cubicle to be seen by a doctor but there are only so many rooms and only so many doctors to see everyone.

Its 11am and I get a 15 minute break to quickly chuck some toast and a drink down my neck before going back out.

As a student I observe and assist the nurses and care assistants. It still amazes me at how efficient they are as a team, as the afternoon progresses this is put to the test.


There are only two triage rooms and the screen indicates six ambulance crews incoming. We try and see everyone as quickly as possible but some are waiting for over half an hour. Luckily they are very understanding but it must be difficult for patients, knowing they’re coming into hospital and not being seen quickly. We all wish we could do more but we’re only human.

It gets to 4pm in no time, with us hardly having had a chance to breathe, and I take my dinner break. I didn’t have time to prepare food so I rush to the canteen to get some chips and a drink before going back on shift.

The final two and a half hours are similar to the rest of the day, busy. I continue to take notes and at about 6.30pm I get the chance to question my mentor about a few terms and ailments.

I clock off at 7.15pm to catch my bus, I’m shattered but proud. I feel like I’ve made a positive difference today and that feeling pushes any sense of tiredness to the back of your head.

I get home just after eight and run a bath, grab some food and try and unwind. I fall asleep at about ten on the sofa and have to force myself to bed, knowing I’ve got to be up at 5am to do it all again.