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'Working on critical care is dredging up painful memories'


Can you advise this student nurse?

“I am a second year student nurse and have got a long-standing anxiety disorder.

“For the most part, this is really well managed but I am on a new placement on critical care and I am finding it more difficult to stay on top of it. I’m able to do the work well but there are elements of this placement I find quite upsetting.

“Over a year ago a family member became very unwell and was admitted to a critical care unit where it was touch and go for a couple of weeks. Since starting the placement, I have found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed as it is dredging up some very painful memories.

“I tried to be honest and explain this to my mentor but she didn’t seem very willing to engage in this conversation at all.  

“I now feel very embarrassed that I said anything and I wish I hadn’t. I just wanted to face up to the issues and address them properly so that the anxiety doesn’t increase and I can make the most of my placement.  

“I was wondering if other students had faced a similar situation where the things they saw on placement were just a bit too close to home and how they managed/came to terms with it?


- Anonymously


Readers' comments (7)

  • I don't know if it's helpful but I just take a break. My girlfriend and me ended up in a car crash and I hated having to hear her screaming as they set her leg whilst I was strapped to a bed because they didn't want me to move until I'd been X-rayed. Makes me nauseous to hear a woman screaming these days and so I just tell my mentor where I'm going and take a break if I need to. I'm sure it must have been uncomfortable to open up to your mentor and have them not give the response you were hoping for but I would hope that they would let you have that time if you really did need it. After all it is that caring attitude that makes them a nurse.

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  • Was it fair to attempt to involve a mentor in your long standing mental heath issue(s)

    I not surprised the mentor did not wish to "engage"

    Seek help from your GP, Metal Health Adviser or the Universities Student Health Service

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  • With respect I would argue that to involve mentors in any problem affecting a student nurse is appropriate and the right thing to do in the circumstances given that mentors are a student's first port of call in terms of practice support.
    I am sorry your mentor reacted this way, but agree perhaps that she did not know what to do or say. I think a positive next step would be to go to your personal tutor who will most certainly have dealt with similar issues before and who will be able to support you.
    Another source of support would be other students, do you have a close group of friends you could turn to? Anxiety is a horrible thing but 'getting out' and socialising is a really positive step. It is great you have acknowledged what is bothering you, and you also recognise that having a long-standing mental health problem is probably making things harder for you. Are you under a therapist or counsellor because that would be an ideal way to confront the way placement is making you feel.
    Ultimately placements come to an end, this may not be the area you wish to work but there is still much to gain from it. Seek support from the university and find the opportunities to meet your learning outcomes in order that you can move through this and onto the next thing. Very best of luck (-:

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  • Hi thanks for replying.

    To the first person, I'm sorry to hear about your ordeal, that sounds awful. Thank you for sharing that with me and I will definitely try to take a break if I feel a bit overwhelmed. I hope you are okay?

    To the second person, please believe me that I considered whether or not it was fair or appropriate to share that information with my mentor, its not something I just like to spring on people. However, I have already made all of the steps you have suggested and they have unanimously advised me to involve my mentor. Thank you though for your message and I do understand what you're saying.

    To Caroline, thank you for your constructive advice. I am going to see my personal tutor again soon, she's very nice and it will be helpful to have that conversation with her. I have a pretty good relationship with her so I'm hopeful that she'll be understanding. I do appreciate that my mentor may not have known what to say and I don't blame her for finding it hard to discuss it.
    I do have a lovely group of friends and some of them were around when the actual situation occurred. They have always been very supportive and I genuinely thought that those issues weren't upsetting me anymore until I got to my new placement.
    As far as the anxiety disorder goes, its something that is usually managed very well. I don't want it to become a problem again, not when I have worked so hard to get to this point. I am still going out and getting on, but I am going to try to access more counselling.

    Thanks again.

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  • the problem is that when we open up to others we have no idea how they are going to respond and sadly, depending on their level and range of experience, not even all nurses seem equipped to cope with it. others you will find are excellent at supporting their patients but for some reason do not behave the same way with their colleagues. I found this after a double bereavement in my family and little support and understanding from colleagues that resulted in a premature end of my 30 year career which I am sure would not have happened if I had been given the same support I and other colleagues had offered on previous occasions to others who we saw were overwhelmed and struggling. giving reasons, for me, just seemed to make things worse.

    Mentors should be able to shoulder such responsibilities and know who to refer a student to if they need further or more expert support, otherwise their abilities of the role of mentor should be questioned. this role requires many different attributes including understanding and empathy and offering support in a professional manner to their students.

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  • good on you for having the courage to speak to your mentor. he/she obviously found it difficult to relate to you around the issue. does the hospital provide any free councelling service / if so that might be the way to go. good luck with the rest of your training.

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  • Do you have a wellbeing department attached to the university or the hospital occy health department? If so it may be worth going to have a chat with them about how they can help you.

    I have experienced something similar and found the wellbeing service an excellent support network!
    Good luck!

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