I don't agree with this idea. I think if you do a general nursing degree, you can work on the wards and in the community or any other number of settings. If you are well-trained and a decent nurse, you should be able to adapt to different environments. You can then go on to further study according to the preferred area you choose. I only qualified a year and half ago and worked on the wards for a few months to gain a bit more general experience. I am now happily working as a community nurse which I love. I'm quite interested in other community areas such as school nursing so could do this as I have an adult nursing degree but by the same token can do bank on a ward/A&E dept to insure I keep a range of different skills.
Student MH Nurse: I work with others that have gone straight into the community from qualifying so this is totally possible. I'm talking about community staff nurse rather than MH nurses tho so not sure about your branch. It depends on the trust you work for but some places are very resistant to change and the older nurses who've been there for years couldn't go straight into the community so that's probably why you're getting some negativity about this. However I would say that having some ward experience helps - I had 8 months but I'd say 1-2 years is about right, as in the community you're on your own and have to deal with situations on your feet. I've been lucky in terms of training and have been trained loads in the community, but if you can find a supportive ward to get some training and experience behind you first, I believe this would prove beneficial to you, your patients and colleagues in equal measures.
I don't think we get paid nearly enough for what we do; as you say we're saving lives. This country is messed up and there is so much disparity in terms of pay. I think we should strike especially if we're facing a pay freeze in 2011. Everyone else strikes when they don't get what they want, why shouldn't we? Either that or just move to Australia or Canada where they get paid about the same but are treated so much better with safer patient to nurse ratios. No wonder British nurses are leaving to work abroad, seeking better and more fulfilling careers and lifestyles; this will only increase as we get simultaneously pushed around and ignored in the UK.