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Juggling to find balance: hearing the voices of undergraduate student nurses

13 August 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 15



Accounts of stress are common among students on nursing programmes. Prolonged high levels of stress can contribute to poor learning, the development of detrimental health behaviours, attrition and burnout.


To examine the health and wellbeing implications of undertaking a BSc nursing degree in the UK for first-year students.


Qualitative narrative analysis of 100 written student reflections on the influences on their health and wellbeing was undertaken.


Nursing students must juggle multiple competing demands on their physical capabilities, personal resources, income and time. Students are constantly seeking to achieve balance and personal equilibrium through the use of a variety of coping strategies.


This work calls upon the profession, the nursing regulator, nursing programmes within higher education institutions and health Trusts to review the framework and content of undergraduate BSc nurse education. Programme requirements should enhance the health and wellbeing of students while simultaneously delivering education and practice opportunities necessary to meet professional requirements.

A career in nursing offers numerous and diverse opportunities. However, the nursing profession within the UK currently faces many challenges; the most pressing is the recruitment and retention of registered nurses (Beech et al, 2019). Given the existing and predicted shortages of registered nurses (Buchan et al, 2019), it seems constructive to ensure that student nurses are not only appropriately prepared for registration but they are also well supported and nurtured as they develop their nursing knowledge and skills. This study gave voice to the health and wellbeing experiences of 100 first-year student nurses through the use of their written narratives. These narratives captured their health and wellbeing experiences as they navigated through the first year of their undergraduate programme. The study findings identified student responses to programme and personal life stressors, revealing how students juggle the competing demands and attempt to seek equilibrium while managing their lives; all the time endeavouring to find ways of coping, continuing and succeeding on the programme. Finally, this article will discuss the impact of curricula that acknowledge and are guided by the experiences of students, as ways of addressing and ameliorating potential stressors.

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