It appears one or two of my colleagues and friends are starting nursing this year. So I thought I'd write this to offer some advice....and warnings.
First off you will not have a life, student nurses who go out drinking every night and turn up on placement hung over drop out very quickly. Lets face it even being hungover whilst in charge of a patients care is plain wrong.
Secondly, on placement you will be given as much responsibility and training as you work for. If you are sat there waiting for your mentor to push you and force opportunities on you, you're a fool. If you hear about an upcoming procedure you want to see, you ask to see it. Request time off ward to spend time with the cardio team or the physios. Each placement is a minimum of 8 weeks long, you'll have plenty of time on ward but its vital you experience as much as possible.
Do not get involved with the petty student factions. Most of the people on your course will be catty, bitchy 18 year old girls who try to draw you into their arguments. They will also be very friendly with you until you start doing better than them.
At Southampton more than half the students end up dropping out, most of these do so in the first year. Its a hard course and a lot of people are there for an easy ride.
Reputation matters, on placement its vital that your attitude and manner are professional and friendly. At the end of the day you'll be spending 3 years at this hospital and they are small enough so that word spreads, when you qualify your reputation within the hospital means a lot more than what award you qualified on or how well you did in your life sciences exam.
Lastly, I strongly recommend you buy the following books, some are considered mandatory course texts, most arent.
Human Anatomy and Physiology(Seventh Edition) - Elaine N. Marieb, Katja Hoehn
British National Formulary(latest edition?)
The Royal Marsden Hospital Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures(sixth edition) - Lisa Dougherty, Sara Lister
Nursing Practice Hospital and Home: The Adult - Margaret F. Alexander, Josephine N. Fawcett, Phyllis J. Runciman