Nicola Phillips reflects on her experience engaging with the Carer Voices project as a student nurse at University of Stirling.

As a first-year student nurse at the University of Stirling, Nicola has had many lectures with guest speakers. In her own words, it took her many years to begin university and her engagement with the Carer Voices project and the ALLIANCE Humans of Scotland series has been instrumental in improving her confidence as a student nurse.

What did you do?

After hearing Tommy Whitelaw’s talk, I promised that I would remember every word and try to make my own difference.

His personal story stayed with me through my first placement and made a huge difference in how I was able to care for others.  I will never forget how excited and emotional that whole placement was. I went home after my first day full of emotions and was desperate to put into words exactly how I felt about my experience. I had split up from my husband before I started so I was full of many feelings and thoughts. It was going out each day and caring for others that got me through what was going on at home and in my head. I wrote down all my emotions into a short story. I wasn’t sure if I was good enough, but writing it all down when I did made me realise I just had to be good enough to care. I shared this story with Carer Voices and the wider ALLIANCE team and it was a brilliant feeling to know people wanted to listen to how I felt.

What worked well and why?

Sharing my own story made me feel like more than ‘just’ a student nurse to realising that I could really make a difference. Nursing Times and The University of Stirling also shared my story online.  All my fellow students and other professionals in my placement area all read it and felt like it was exactly how they had also felt.  A lot of qualified nurses said it reminded them of when they were at the start of their careers and reminded them of why they wanted to be a nurse.  I felt so honoured and humbled that what I had wrote and how I felt had such a positive effect on others also.

I already felt so excited about how quickly and far my story was shared but when I was asked to have my story featured in the ‘Humans of Scotland’ book, more people messaged me saying my story made them feel good about the positive care that a nurse and student nurse specifically can give. I felt privileged to be able to have a voice for student nurses, to show that we can care and make a difference from day one.

I spent most of my life feeling worthless but nursing has changed all of that for me. The Carer Voices project gave me the confidence to seek opportunities I never would have before. I applied and was accepted to the Council of Deans Leadership programme – this was something I never considered for myself in my first year. I also delivered a talk to the first-year nursing students at the start of my second year to tell them about the book, how I got into nursing and the impact my writing has had on myself and others. I am starting a blog at the moment and writing a lot more. In fact, as a part of my Leadership programme I am hopefully organising my own conference.

What difference did it make to the people you engage with?

Everything I am continuing to achieve is because of realising my potential through engagement with Carer Voices. I now feel that I can express my passion for nursing in tangible ways and people can and want to hear me. The project has helped give student nurses another place to have a voice and remind us of how important we are to the health and care of people. I was always going to be the best nurse I could be but without engagement with Carer Voices, I don’t think I would have found my own voice and have the confidence to share my passion for nursing and people. My hope now is that my writing and voice continues to make some kind of difference to the delivery of person-centred care for by reminding people to never forget the reason they wanted to care – it comes from the heart.

You can follow Nicola on her Twitter account (this link will take you away from our website).