Hazel has been our mental health branch representative for Student Nursing Times for almost a year. She reflects on how much has changed during the past 12 months - for her and for nursing
The last year as student editor has coincided with a lot going on for me both inside and outside university.
I had some ongoing health problems and, for the first time in my adult life, I experienced the NHS as a patient.
I have been privileged to have experienced incredible, compassionate, holistic nursing and student nursing care from my colleagues. I am hugely grateful to them but the impact on me, both personally and professionally, has been especially great due to my changing perceptions of nursing; something that has evolved during my experience with Student Nursing Times.
Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
For me, the editorship was encouragement to think about nursing in a new way. I confess that beforehand reflection had been a skill to ‘tick off’ in my book rather than a practice that I actively engaged in and benefitted from.
”For me, the editorship was encouragement to think about nursing in a new way”
In university and in practice, we often bemoan ‘the disjointed system’. Especially in Mental Health, our work is often insular, frequently working in teams who may be multi-disciplinary but not always multi-speciality.
We see ‘holistic care’ as a gold standard but I, and many more students and qualified staff, feel we are ill-equipped to meet the physical needs of our service users.
Similarly, I have spoken to colleagues in adult, child and learning disability nursing who feel their knowledge of mental health is severely lacking.
However, we know that this will persist until we take ownership of our own learning and experiences, reaching out to colleagues and equipping ourselves with the contacts, the skills and the willingness to keep learning in order to be the best nurses we can be.
”I have seen first-hand the incredible staff that work alongside me in all walks of nursing and midwifery”
This is all well and good, but it’s difficult to take that first step to integrate into the wider system.
Working with Student Nursing Times, especially enjoying the fantastic awards night, I have seen first-hand the incredible staff that work alongside me in all walks of nursing and midwifery. There is so much good going on in the health service but I feel that too often we brand ourselves ‘just nurses’ and don’t celebrate the innovation and compassion that are second-nature to so many wonderful staff.
For that reason, the awards were a particular highlight of my time as editor!
Also, I’ve found that SNT blogs are a great forum to meet other people and share experiences, plus a platform to sing the praises of staff who I have seen going above and beyond.
”The blogs are also a brilliant opportunity to learn something new and start the debate about contested issues”
The blogs are also a brilliant opportunity to learn something new and start the debate about contested issues in nursing and midwifery. The past year has seen the vote to abolish student nurse bursaries, something which I was able to have my say on and debate with other students through SNT.
I also especially enjoyed the process of researching my EU referendum blog and the predicted impact on student nurses of a vote for ‘Brexit’. In the coming months we’ll see how accurate those predictions are! This was a great opportunity to research and really understand the issue.
As a student editor, I have seen my focus change from my own career path and personal progression, to understanding the nursing and the health service as something larger. I have seen the NHS from both sides and I am incredibly proud to be a part of it despite its flaws and restrictions.
Student Nursing Times is a celebration of the incredible work of student and qualified nurses and midwives, so valuable at a time when our professions are under attack from funding cuts and staffing restrictions. It is a community where members can share experiences and understanding and, through learning about others, we can all grow and learn about ourselves.
”Student Nursing Times is a celebration of the incredible work of student and qualified nurses and midwives”
The editorship was an amazing opportunity to share what I had learned and experienced over the past two and a half years, celebrate the amazing contributions of other staff and look more deeply into the key issues that are affecting nursing and midwifery.
I expected the role to be a great opportunity to practice and hone my skills of reflection, which has been invaluable! I had not expected the impact this would have on the rest of my life because. By being in the habit of reflecting and taking time to write down my experiences I have learned more about myself personally as well as professionally.
For me, the recruitment process was excellent. It gave me an opportunity to practice writing in a more chatty style than my essays and ‘structured reflections’ had done at university. By writing a sample blog, I was able to gauge how long the monthly submission would take me and it began the process of thinking about what issues I would like to focus on following being accepted as editor.
(Also, I really did not expect to get it, so I was absolutely delighted when I got the email!)
I really enjoyed being editor. By starting a twitter profile in conjunction with the role, I was contacted by a number of different people feeding back on the issues I had written about to offer their experiences and understanding. I was also offered the opportunity to be part of a virtual support programme for prospective student nurses.
A real highlight was taking part in the SNT Awards ceremony, which was excellent fun and so inspiring. The free champagne was also very pleasant - whilst the tube ride home was not!
Basically, being an editor is your opportunity to write a monthly blog on absolutely anything you would like to that relates to nursing and midwifery.
My more serious blogs have been reflecting on experiences I have had with front-line staff whose dedication has helped me realise what kind of nurse I would like to become.
The year has been marked by the vote to scrap student nurse bursaries and, as part of the editorship, I was able to have my say and join the debate on the subject. My more light-hearted blogs have included the impact of ‘augmented reality game’ Pokemon Go on mental health.
”I’ve learned so much and made so many lovely memories because of the experience”
Basically, there is so much that you could explore and you really can make the role your own.
Finally, a huge shout-out to Victoria Abrahams who – as well as being an SNT student editor – went and scooped the Adult Nursing Student of the Year Award which genuinely could not have gone to a nicer person.
I genuinely have no criticism, at all, whatsoever. It has been a privilege to be a part of SNT and I’ve learned so much and made so many lovely memories because of the experience.