Before starting his training Gavin thought he knew where his career was going, but placements have helped him realise the vast array of options available to him.
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Before starting my nurse training I served in the Royal Air Force and seemed to be constantly involved, at least in some way, in training.
This included my own annual first aid training as well as the training I provided to air cadets on military subjects. I also trained as a counsellor to mentor military personnel returning from active duty in combat zones.
I guess this is where I began my journey in mental health.
”I’ve found the experience of being on placement extremely rewarding”
I’m now just starting my second year of nurse training and so far I’ve found the experience of being on placement extremely rewarding.
I had three placements during my first year and dealing with the nervousness of starting a new placement became a lot easier with each new setting. Despite working as a health care assistant in a forensic hospital for three years before going into nursing, I still struggled with first day nerves. But within five minutes of introducing myself I was made to feel welcome and part of the nursing team.
”Within five minutes of introducing myself I was made to feel welcome and part of the nursing team”
Placements have allowed me to expand on the experience of mental health that I brought with me into my training, and they have provided an excellent insight into the vast number of services available. They have helped me to make sense of everything I’ve learned in lectures and to use that knowledge in a working environment.
I still find dealing with my own emotions difficult at times, particularly when nursing service users who have complex mental health conditions. I’ve found that the friends I have made at university, my personal tutor, my peer mentors and all the other university staff have always been readily available to discuss any issues. I’ve also found regularly reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses provides a framework for my own personal development and growth.
“The placements I’ve had so far have opened doors for me to decide on the mental health field that would best suit me”
Before I started my nurse training I had planned to return to forensic mental health, but the placements I’ve had so far have opened doors for me to decide on the mental health field that would best suit me based on my strengths and interests.
The feedback I’ve received from service users has given me positive assurance that choosing mental health was the right decision and led me to consider PTSD as a possible area of interest for my future career.
All I know, at the moment, is that I am excited to see where my nursing training and journey will take me over the next two years. I was told at the start of my course that learning is a personal journey and you will always get out of it what you put in.
While I believe this to be true, I also think that it’s a journey that you should share with friends, family and university staff.
Gavin Hibberd-Smith is in his second year studying mental health nursing at University of Nottingham