My first year as a mental health student nurse has been challenging, rewarding and insightful, but one of my most memorable experiences was a placement at a general hospital alongside qualified adult nurses.
The placement gave me a clearer insight into the role and responsibilities of an adult nurse and how things work in a general hospital.
I was able to learn a lot about adult nursing and see the difference in priorities of a physical health ward compared to a mental health ward. It seemed that the responsibilities of an adult nurse focused more on administering medication and personal care.
There were a few patients with a diagnosis of dementia or depression on the ward, and although the team did a fantastic job, I felt there was not always enough time to attend to the patients’ mental health needs – meaning lack of emotional support.
”I felt there was not always enough time to attend to the patients’ mental health needs”
During medication rounds, when patients were unsettled, the priority was still giving out medication.
I feel that when working in a mental health ward the priority should be spending time with patients to ensure that they are settled and relaxed. Therefore, whenever time constraints meant I was unable to prioritise the mental health needs of a patient, I felt uncomfortable and guilty; this led me to read further about the mental health needs of patients in a physical care setting and I came across the Kings Fund and Parity of Esteem.
Whenever I told nurses and healthcare assistants that I was studying to be a mental health nurse, nine times out of 10 I would get a wide-eyed, raised eyebrows look or a comment like “Wow! You’re brave.”
”I think any nurse or healthcare assistant is brave”
I think any nurse or healthcare assistant is brave, and has a major impact not only on the lives of patients but on the lives of their families too. Too often mental illness is internally stigmatised by staff in the healthcare service, but is it intentional?
People with mental illness are not scary and to work as a mental health nurse you have to be no braver than an adult nurse. The work of any nurse is tough, both physically and mentally. It is what you get back that makes it worthwhile.
The general placement was an eye opener; now I can see things from a different perspective. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to do a placement in a general setting and gain this experience. It is a shame that adult nurses are not always given the opportunity to do a mental health placement.
”It is a shame that adult nurses are not always given the opportunity to do a mental health placement”
Kingston University was not my first choice, however I’m proud to be a student at Kingston and feel like it’s where I was meant to be. The available support within the university is outstanding and the shared knowledge between the lecturers is astonishing.
My advice for first year student nurses is to take full advantage of every learning opportunity and the support services to enable you to excel in what you do.
There will be challenges but reflect on these to create positive learning experiences that will shape the nurse you strive to become.
Chad Richmond is in 2nd year studying mental health nursing at Kingston University