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'It's important to recognise the opportunities available to us as students'

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By taking advantage of every opportunity to advance her career, Katie has realised more and more how broad she can make her nurse training

Katie Sutton_SNT

Katie Sutton is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for mental health

Since I last wrote, my nursing education has taken some real leaps and bounds.

Different opportunities that I’d jumped for at various times have started to come together, giving me exciting things to do and amazing things to look forward to in the future.

I’ve been reflected on how this has happened, and why grabbing these opportunities as students is so important.

When I enrolled on my degree this time, I told myself I wasn’t going to get that involved in student activities. The last time I studied, I was really involved in the Students’ Union, and I must confess that I occasionally neglected my workload and didn’t do as well academically as I was really capable of. Fortunately, while I haven’t quite stuck to that rule, I have at least found extra-curricular activities that are related to nursing and aiding my development.

The biggest one so far, of course, was going to RCN Congress.

I had university the week that it was on and, by sheer bad luck, it was the very first week of my new module, so I could only attend Congress from Wednesday lunchtime onwards. Still, I got to attend the AGM, do a bit of networking at the social event in the evening and, on Thursday, attend the debates… and, as some people may remember, even had opportunity to get on my soapbox about fair pay (and particularly, ensuring that lower paid workers in the NHS such as Band 2 HCAs get paid a Living Wage) - which I blogged about.

I hadn’t been planning on doing that at all, but it was a really amazing experience and for RCN members and student nurses, one I’d definitely recommend. While it took all the courage in the world - as you can see watching the video, the size of the crowd overwhelmed me a little and I had to try really hard not to stare at my notes - my self-confidence took such a boost, and everyone was really kind, especially those on the stage, and in my local branch.

After Congress, I had the opportunity to attend a slightly different conference. A few months earlier, I’d learned of a one-day event in London, run by the National Service User Network, about improving service user involvement in mental health services. I’d fired off an email to NT’s online editor, Fran, to ask her if she could try and get me a press pass, since I was keen to write about the event.

Although I am obviously training to be a nurse, I have been a user of mental health services for many years (and in fact, I am a current service user too, in the end stages of specialist treatment for ADHD, happily looking forward to being discharged back to primary care later this year) so the conference was interesting to me not just professionally, but with a personal lean as well.

It was an amazing day, listening to healthcare professionals and service users alike talk about how they’d made a difference in their communities, from service user groups to promoting art therapy, to one consultant who did little things like changing what he wore to work based on feedback from his patients.

I live-tweeted the day, along with @MarkOneInFour and it was a great day with a lot of food for thought, not just for those studying mental health - involving patients and service users is important across all fields of practice!

It was a really busy week but has been amazing my development - my confidence, my belief in nursing and the future of mental health nursing particularly has really improved, and both were great things to enhance my PDP as well.

If you’re a student nurse and you ever get these kind of opportunities… I highly recommend it!


You can follow the tweets from the conference with: #NSUNInvolvement


Katie Sutton is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for mental health

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