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Theory to Practice By Dann Gooding

Theory to Practice

Dann Gooding

After three years of being a student, you’ve found yourself at the top of the tree. You’ve gone through your placements, got your competencies signed off and feel like you’re on top of the world. On placement, you’re taking your own workload under supervision and you’re confident. You know you’re going to be a great nurse. 

Then, as you transition from student to newly qualified nurse (NQN), you need to learn how not to be a student. 

For the first several weeks of being an NQN, it felt like another placement. On PICU, I was supernumerary for 6 weeks and had weekly study days with my preceptorship group. It wasn’t until I checked my first drug that the weight of professional responsibility started to hit me. All of a sudden, I remembered to check every drug, dose & side effects in the BNFC. I suddenly became very aware of what my NMC pin was worth. This is what I have been working towards for the last 5+ years. The more I read about my professional responsibility, the more and more uptight I became. My pin is the most important thing to me. 

The next biggest challenge for many is time management, and whilst I don’t have a magic fix, I can advise you to get or create an hourly shift planner and write down everything you need to do. It may be overwhelming at first, but a lot of those tasks will take a short amount of time to complete, and it gives you a morale boost when you see everything you have already completed. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We work in a job in which care occurs 24 hours a day. You may feel guilty for handing things over, but try not to as you can’t always do everything. It doesn’t make you a bad professional. And when those feelings of doubt arise, use the networks you have. Family, friends, colleagues, blogging, Twitter and whatever else you use. We live in 2020 and there is no good reason for anybody to feel isolated and alone, especially not in healthcare.

Theory-to-practice gaps cause large issues too. At university, we learn the basics of anatomy and physiology, but I know that there’s a difference in the amount of each subject taught at different universities. This disparity and the desire to be the best nurse we can be is worrying. As NQNs, we put a high level of expectation on ourselves. Where does this come from? It’s important for all NQNs to know that the wards do not expect you to know everything. The most important thing that you need to be able to do as an NQN is keep your patients safe. Do your safety checks and escalate your concerns. You have three years of nursing experience behind you even as a NQN. Trust your instincts. Seek advice from your seniors.

Town Sign, Board, Place Name Sign, Theory, Practice


Dann Gooding is a Staff Nurse in Paediatric Critical Care at Birmingham Children’s Hospital with clinical interests in acute care, trauma and clinical leadership. He founded the Student Nurse Project and is a Royal College of Nursing West Midlands board member as well as @BloggersNurse team-member.



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