As I am now in my final year of being a student nurse, I recently realised how far I have actually come since those first few weeks.
It’s a bit of a personal story but I will share it anyway as I have made no attempt to hide the fact that I have mental health issues.
My mum died over the Christmas period, and leading up to her death I helped nurse her for about six weeks. A week before she died my mental health deteriorated, I informed university who were great and gave me compassionate leave and upheld mitigating circumstances for an assignment I had due.
I also needed the services of the local crisis team which included a psychiatrist; we discussed the possible reasons for my mental health deterioration and decided on a plan of action. We discussed the medication that he was suggesting and the possible side effects such as weight gain, drowsiness dry mouth etc.
I enquired whether I was to carry on with my regular medications to which he replied yes. I had a niggle somewhere in my head that I could not ignore; just as he was about to leave I questioned him again about my regular medication Citalopram, alongside the Olanzapine I had just been prescribed and he still insisted it would be fine. It was then that I had my light bulb moment and I asked him about the QT interval (the drugs are contra-indicated and Citalopram should also not be prescribed during episodes of mania). We decided that although the risk was low it was still a risk and I was to cease the Citalopram for the time being and review my medications when I was more stable.
I haven’t posted this to say “look I know more than a doctor”, but because I realised that this conversation was two professionals discussing the best course of action for a patient.
When I look back at the first few months of my training, wanting to quit because it was too hard and thinking nothing was ever going to sink in I can’t believe that I am the same person. I am more confident and although I did not come into nursing to care for myself or my relatives, the skills I have gained enabled me to do this with ease.
So my advice for everyone starting out is; hang on in there, it does begin to make sense and before you know it, you too will be discussing patients as a professional with other health professionals.
Also don’t be afraid to tell your university if things get difficult, they have strategies to support you.
Michelle Parker is the learning disabilities branch student nurse editor for Student Nursing Times.