“The Student”

Being addressed as “the student” is not my favourite thing in the world. I’ve never spoken up about it, but I feel it makes you into a commodity as opposed to a human being who is there to learn. My usual response is to introduce myself, and keep introducing myself until people understand that I have a name. It sounds daft I know, but it tends to work.

But sometimes introductions are not enough.. I was working a Saturday shift, in order to see my mentor, and it was my 3rd day of placement that week. During handover, I noticed that my mentor wasn’t there and none of the nurses were regular members of staff; but agency staff who I had seen once or twice. I was really disheartened that my mentor didn’t turn up. And then, after handover, they allocated the Trainee Nursing Associate with a nurse, and left me standing there like a proper lemon.

I was hurt. I’d spent the past 2 days working really hard on placement, during the snow and short-staffing. I thought I was finally somewhat integrated in the team.  The tiredness, shock and hurt built up, and I had to retreat to the staff room to try and calm myself down. I just kept thinking, I’m third year! I shouldn’t be doing this! Why am I upset!

I knew why. I’m a confident person, happy to talk to anyone and everyone. But when you’re in a room of people and nobody acknowledges your existence, confidence can be hard to come by.  After some kind and supportive words from my boyfriend (an endlessly calming presence even via text), I knew it was my responsibility to make something of this situation. So I spoke to the nurse in charge and (after being passed between 3 different nurses), one finally agreed to take me.

I ended up having an okay day, and the nurse I was working with let me be mostly autonomous, and still made time to teach me about NG tubes and giving medication down them. At the end of the shift, she apologised for not wanting to take me on initially. She felt that, with the time pressures and being an agency nurse, it wouldn’t be fair to me. I explained that as a third year, and having been on the ward for a few weeks now, I was quite happy being somewhat autonomous and would ask if I needed anything/wanted to learn about something.

This experience threw me, and I need to raise it with someone so it doesn’t happen again. But it did teach me how important it is to communicate your needs to whoever you’re working with, and make yourself known. It’s not easy, and it can be daunting, but it needs to be done!

If you’ve had a similar experience, feel free to comment and share your story.

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World Mental Health Day 2017

World Mental Health Day, founded by the World Federation for Mental Health, takes place each year on 10th October and adopts a different theme each time. The aim is to raise awareness about mental health and encourage people to think about ways to support those who are experiencing mental health conditions. This year the focus is on mental health in the workplace.

imageThe World Health Organisation discussed how depression and anxiety disorders are common and can have an impact upon a person’s work life. Stress is a major factor that contributes towards the development of mental health conditions. With increased demand, funding cuts and staff shortages, there is no doubt that nurses and healthcare services in general are under immense stress. Nurses working in hospitals are said to be twice as likely as the general population to have depression.

For some mental health nursing students, having lived experience of depression and/or anxiety is a big part of what motivated us to choose to study for a degree in this field of nursing. Personally I chose this career because of the platform it can hopefully give me to help improve mental health services that I was involved with when I was an adolescent and to promote awareness of mental health using not just personal experience but professional knowledge too.

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Not many health professionals speak out about their experiences of living with mental health conditions through fear of having their capability to support other people doubted. Mental health conditions affect people in the workplace, and healthcare settings are no exception. To reduce the impacts of stress and workplace pressures on mental health it is important for people be aware of the support services available for employees. The NHS Services Directory is a useful tool for locating local places where psychological therapies can be accessed. Offering support can be as simple as asking a colleague how they’re feeling. If we start conversations, we’re closer to ending the stigma.

What a difference a year makes…..a message to those starting uni in September

This time last year I was 2 weeks away from packing up my beautiful little counselling room and walking away from a career which I had worked in, enjoyed and become competent in for 15 years and I COULDN’T WAIT!

office-1Don’t get me wrong I loved….LOVED being a therapist and in some ways it defined me but I had pondered long and hard about the decision to change careers and it had been an exhausting slog getting to the stage where I felt confident to finally end my practice and leap into this new world of placements, essays, exams, university life, uniforms, night shifts, long days, hospitals, babies, women, families, doctors, midwives, HCAs, colleagues, blood, faeces, vomit, paperwork, paperwork, paperwork and STRESS but I was ready I WAS READY TO GO …or at least I thought I was!

What would I say to me this time last year:

“read everything you want to read which isn’t midwifery related because in a year you will feel guilty every time you pick up a non-midwifery related magazine/book”

“knit what you need to knit, sew that skirt and dress you’ve been desperate to get on with and RUN for hours in the evening when the kids are in bed whilst you still can as that time will swiftly become ‘study time'”

“play with your sons, read with your sons, cwtch them at bedtime and in the mornings before school because these are times you won’t be around for and you will be intoxicated with guilt for all the times you could’ve done this and didn’t. Enjoy taking them to school and picking them up as this will soon become a treat not a chore”

“go and visit your parents and explain to them that the next three years are going to be tough and you will work weekends and when you aren’t working weekends you will be studying over weekends as you have worked all week and yes, this is dreadful as dementia is slowly taking your dad away but drink him in now, absorb him and how he is in 2015 as 2016 will bring a bit less of him”

“go out with your husband-he’s a good, decent man and over the next 12 months he is going to prove time and time again that he can and will step up and be both parents to your sons and keep the kids fed, the house clean, the washing basket empty and the animals fed and you sane(ish) despite you doubting his ability to do any of these things at this moment in time”

“invest in the right people. You have amazing friends in your life, some will still be around this time next year and some won’t-friendships have seasons but you will meet the MOST amazing friends on this course and, along with a couple of decent friends already in your life, they will hold you and wipe your tears and tell you that you can do this despite you truly believing, in your soul, you have made a massive mistake. The friends you make over the next couple of months will be your ticket to making it through the next 3 years and hopefully the rest of your career because your midwife sisters are the ONLYpeople who truly understand what it takes to make it through this career choice. It is HARD but MY GOD it’s worth it”

“and most of all EMBRACE every opportunity….you are going to be scared at times, really scared; you’ve been really scared in your life before and you’ve managed to get through it but this will be a different fear; this is a fear of failure, a fear of actually causing harm because you don’t know what you’re doing, a fear or letting your family down, a fear of letting yourself down but don’t let the fear get in the way of being in the moment and experiencing every opportunity that comes your way because this job you are training for, this career, this vocation is a gift and a privilege and NOTHING that precious comes without a price”

Would I have heeded any of this advice….NAH! I was too excited but it’s nice to look back on and reflect!

To those about to start university-yes you’ll have doubts and you will probably cry and wonder if you’ve done the right thing at points over the next 12 months (& beyond I would guess!) but always force yourself to go and do your next shift as you just never know what might happen on that shift that confirms you’ve done the right thing! Plus-if you need support its there don’t be alone in your worry.