If you’re reading this, then you are clearly thinking about a career in nursing? I was in your shoes 3 years ago, a lot has happened since then, I’ve learnt so much and have been fortunate enough to work with and care for some really interesting people. So, what made me start a career in nursing?
Well in all honesty, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a nurse. I didn’t have parents or close friends and family that worked in the health service. My whole school life I wanted to be an actor. I had a dream of wanting to be on the stage my whole life, being some sort of Shakespearian character at The Globe in London. My desire to study nursing was a very different and rather sudden choice for me. I always had this fascination with human behaviour and psychology. Why do we behave the way we do? What makes us the person we are today? What drives us to do things? Initially I thought the police service was calling for me, but I quickly forgot about that. I remember sitting in a psychology lesson at college, learning about attachment in children, John Bowlby in particular (for those who know their stuff). It suddenly hit me then, I want to work in the mental health field. I was lucky that my teacher was also a mental health nurse part time, she used lots of her stories and experiences in her teaching. It fascinated me. Eventually it took my girlfriend to open my eyes to Mental Health Nursing. From then on, I went to Open days and did all the usual ‘studenty’ things you have to do.
I struggled at Sixth Form. I never really got the hang of it, I never got the grades I wanted, and ultimately felt like I scraped through. After 2 very quick years, results day came and I entered the process of clearing. I hadn’t quite got the grades I wanted to get into my top 2 institutions, but luckily, I had very supportive teachers at Sixth Form that really helped to guide me through the process. Hertfordshire was my third choice, but because the way the UCAS form is, you can only accept your top 2 offers, meaning initially I had to decline my offer from Hertfordshire. This was a tough choice. Because of the way Nursing is, I attended an open day and an interview, meaning I was in a unique position that I had already visited the University of Hertfordshire twice before being given an offer. I had met the lecturing staff on two separate occasions, whilst being able to explore the campus and get to know my surroundings. It almost felt rude to decline Hertfordshire initially. However, my clearing process was actually very smooth. Hertfordshire was the first and only institution I phoned asking for a place. I spoke to the Mental Health Nursing Admissions Tutor, who recognised me immediately! That felt great. Even though, they had interviewed hundreds of other students, they still remembered me. So, without any doubt, I accepted my clearing place at the University of Hertfordshire and I have not looked back since. My one tip I would recommend is to organise yourself for results day, especially if you were like me and weren’t that confident about your grades. I had a list of different Uni’s that I was going to call if I was to fall into clearing. Luckily I did not have to use it, but it is always good to be prepared.
Mental health is something that everybody has. 1 in 4 of us will experience some sort of mental health problem in our lifetime and yet, it is one of the most stigmatised areas of human nature. Why is mental health so criticised and looked at so differently to physical health? This is an example of what I love most about my course. As a mental health nurse, we work together to promote mental health and wellbeing. We educate patients on the importance of wellbeing in our day to day lives because at the end of the day, if we aren’t feeling well in our emotions then how are you going to feel motivated and willing to do day to day jobs and tasks. I work to build up a satisfying and self-fulfilling life for patients who once thought they couldn’t live anymore, and let me tell you, that is one of the most rewarding feelings for a nurse.
I am interested in people. People are fascinating. I enjoy listening to people’s stories. There is so much more to a person than what is presented at face value! That’s something I carry with me for life outside of work, which is also something that nursing is great for. It teaches life skills. How to work under pressure, how to communicate with others, how to work flexibly, how to organise time and so many more skills. I thoroughly enjoy what I do! I feel honoured to be part of the NHS in this field of nursing.
Let’s move on to the elephant in the room… COVID-19. The pandemic has brought huge change to everyone’s lives, it’s forced society to adjust our daily lives in an attempt to keep us all safe but most notably it has placed pressures on the NHS. When the outbreak was in its early stage, I was told to pause my placement. Therefore, I was not in practice during the peak time. However, I restarted again in June on an Acute Old Age Psychiatry ward in a different trust in a different hospital. There were noticeable changes. Admission protocols had changed to make sure that patients were swabbed on admission, patients were told to isolate in their rooms to await a result, all staff are wearing face masks and scrubs, cleaning regimes were stricter (I didn’t think they could be any stricter than what they were before). We have had an influx of donations and thank you’s from the general public, it is so nice to see! I thank everyone who did their bit to help the health service in any way they could. Despite the risk being lower now, it is still something we need to keep in mind. However, the most noticeable difference are the patients themselves. Especially in the last few weeks, Mental Health Services are seeing a pandemic of a different sort. A pandemic of patients who have fallen mentally unwell during the lockdown. People having their social lives cut off, not being able to see family, community groups shut, being confined to their house is really taking a toll on people and sadly now there is a whole new different pandemic starting and it’s us who are going to be on the frontline of that.
To finish off, I am so happy that I decided to go into Mental Health Nursing. Even though it was a very sudden decision, it is the best decision I have ever made. I am grateful for the skills I have learnt and for the people I have met. I am clear evidence that clearing does not have to be a horrible experience. With good preparation, the process can be smooth and as stress free as possible.
All the best,
Fraser is currently studying mental health nursing at the University of Hertfordshire, if you are inspired by Fraser's story and would like to study nursing in September 2020 there are still places available on some of their nursing courses including adult nursing and learning disability nursing*. You can find all the information you need by visiting their website.
*Correct at time of writing this article