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‘I had forgotten what it felt like to have the drive to learn more’

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Struggling to stay motivated to continue her course, student nurse Samantha shares how her personal tutor’s intervention rekindled her drive to complete her degree

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Samantha Course

As I went into the second year of my mental health nursing degree, I felt quite disillusioned. While working, I had spent the summer travelling and seeing friends and family, all the things I used to enjoy before making the decision to train to be a nurse. As a mature student, I had resigned from a steady job with a steady wage to follow my ‘dream’, however, I was now struggling to see if the sacrifice was going to be worth it. 

During the first term, I found it difficult to motivate myself to do university work or to finish the placement I was on at the time, and luckily I mentioned this to my personal tutor, Nicola Lester. I say luckily because I really believe that if I hadn’t spoken up I would not still be a student nurse. I would have gone back to my steady job, which in all honesty may have funded my holidays but for the rest of the 335 days of the year made me miserable. 

My tutor suggested that I write one of my required reflections on why student nurses leave the course during their training. This was the first useful step I took to help myself identify why I felt that mental health might no longer be my dream career and if it also related to why other students ended up dropping out. 

She also encouraged me to think outside the box, rather than seeing mental health nursing as confined to the NHS placements I had encountered. She suggested that I learn more about what other opportunities a qualification in mental health nursing could offer me. 

Although my tutor was a mental health nurse by background, in addition to her teaching role at the University, she was also engaged in mental health consultancy work for a range of statutory and non-statutory organisations in her area of specialism, traumatic bereavement. 

She invited me to attend one of her training workshops so that I might gain a first-hand understanding of the other opportunities and roles that mental health nurses could be involved in.

The training workshop held at Inspirative Arts (an art-based therapy service in Derby) focused on the subject of mass fatalities and traumatic bereavement. It was incredibly interesting to learn about these areas and in particular to see how a mental health nurse might be able to share one’s expertise with and shape the practice of other professionals working in this field. 

I was surprised by how much this workshop inspired me; I had not fully appreciated that by completing my degree and qualifying as a mental health nurse I could have the opportunity to work in such diverse areas. I had forgotten what it felt like to have the drive to learn more, and how I had felt when I had applied for the degree in the first place and the joy at being offered a place on the course. 

In particular, the workshop helped me to better understand the role of non-statutory organisations in the field of mental health, and to learn about alternative career possibilities for someone with a mental health nursing degree qualification. 

With the constant change and redevelopment of mental health services, it is unclear what provisions will look like in the future, however, it is evident that mental health nurses will need to be flexible, innovative, creative and enterprising in their approach. Further, student nurses should be afforded (and take up) opportunities to participate in non-NHS placements as part of their training.

Since attending the workshop, I have noticed that my outlook has changed and I am more open-minded about my future career. I am enjoying my current placement. I feel that this is partly due to not feeling pressured to imagine myself working there for the rest of my life and the knowledge of the limitless opportunities that exist for mental health nurses upon completion of their training. Not only has this experience reinspired me to complete my training but it has reignited my passion and enthusiasm.

Samantha Course is currently in her second year studying mental health nursing at Leeds Beckett University

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