I applied to study mental health nursing at the University of Derby through clearing. However, my initial phone call did not secure an interview
I remember putting the phone down and feeling unbelievable disappointment. But I had a sudden surge of self-belief. I don’t know where it came from but I rang again, explained that I had the qualifications to get on the course and that my experiences of growing up with a parent with schizophrenia had not just had a profound impact on my life but had also provided me with the type of insights, knowledge and skills that you cannot learn from a textbook.
”I said ‘if you give me an interview you will take me on”
I cannot actually believe what came out of my mouth next. I said ‘if you give me an interview you will take me on’. In shock at myself, I put the phone down but the university called back. I was offered an interview for the next day and they offered me a place too.
As a mature student when I embarked on my studies, one thing that I was acutely aware of - having in the past made some poor decisions - was that opportunities in life do not come around very often. When I started university I wanted to make it count so I could look back on this experience and say I made the most of it.
”When I reflect on the last three years I am astonished by all the activities I have been involved in”
When I reflect on the last three years I am astonished by all the activities I have been involved in. If somebody had told me three years ago that I would present at quality and quality management visits for my local trust or attend, organise, present and win an award at an international conference I would have said that must be some other person you are talking about.
If someone had said you will make a small change in your clinical placement that will be published nationally and that you will talk to an open about a stage 3 module to explain social movement theory and share to open a regional Health Education East Midlands Quality Improvement Forum Conference to inspire others to engage in the change process I would definitely have said that is not me.
”If people had told me I would have my articles published, I would have given a really big laugh”
If others had said you will be a student representative and actually argue for changes to be made to the course to improve content for the next generation of nursing students I would have said ‘really, me?’
If people had told me I would have my articles published, I would have given a really big laugh.
And these are just some of the activities that I have been involved with.
Going to university has been the most wonderful experience and I have had the most fantastic time. I have achieved things and participated in activities that I never thought possible.
So here are my top tips for getting the most out of your university experience, because you will only do this once and I want you to have the most fantastic three years.
- It may be boring, but be organised. Time management is important, What is more important is that you actually stick to the schedules you create.
- Don’t be proud, Go to Study Skills. My advisor was called Anne. She told me that essay writing is a skill you can learn - and she was right.
- Don’t get upset by people who feel the need to tell everybody their amazing grade, And don’t feel bad if at first you don’t do well. It doesn’t mean that in the end you won’t achieve the result that you really want. (Refer to tip 2).
- Get involved. Opportunities do not come to you, you make them happen. (Refer back to tip 1, as if you want to go the extra mile you are going to need to be organised).
- Have a go. If you think you can’t do something, try anyway; you will learn that in fact you can do it, and it will feel great.
- Treat everybody you meet along the way equitably. It is nice when you meet the important people, yes - I have met Lords, Dames, CEOs, Nursing Directors and academics, and they are important people but don’t let them dazzle you, as they are just people. Treat them with the same respect as the housekeeper or nursing assistant you met yesterday, who are equally very important people.
- This is the most important tip of all and the one I learnt when I decided to ring university for a second time to tell them that if they gave me an interview they would take me on. Believe in yourself. Before you believe in anybody else in the world, believe that you can do this - because, you know what, you can.
So those are my top tips.
I don’t have long to go now. I feel a little sad to be leaving the world of academia, but I am aiming to return, one day.
In the meantime, I have secured my first RMN post. Actually, it is my dream job - a perfect fit, you could say, in a rehabilitation setting where I will be supporting people who experience serious mental ill health.
I can’t wait to be a registered nurse and discover what the future has in store.
Helen Croft is a current mental health student nurse at University of Derby