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60 Second Interview: Student Mental Health Nurse

Nurses provide direct treatment and advice to people in hospitals, health centres, clinics and the wider community.

They are crucial in making sure that people receive proper care, attention and support throughout their treatment or recovery.

As a nurse, there are many areas you can specialise in, from working with children to emergency medicine and research.

We caught up with Laura, a student mental health nurse, to find out more about her working life.

Laura is co-founder of the Student Nurse Blogger Collective, a network for student nurses to share their advice and experiences as they train. You can also read her own account of her training at her excellent blog - She's Off Again.

Name: Laura 

Company: NHS

Industry: Medicine & healthcare

What is your job?: Student mental health nurse

How long have you been training for your job? Over two years

University Course: Diploma of Higher Education in Mental Health Nursing with Registration

GCSE's: English, Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Psychology

Interests: Blogging, social networking, vegetarian cookery, being anywhere outdoors

What was your very first job?
I had a paper round from age 10! But my first ‘proper’ job was aged 18, as a support worker at a residential home for adults with learning disabilities and additional mental health needs, where I continue to work now.

What did you want to do when you were at school?
Lots! I went through phases of wanting to work as a teacher, work with animals, work in retail and even in floristry. My most serious plan, before I decided to train as a nurse,  was probably to be a child protection social worker.

What made you want to train as a mental health nurse?
When I was 16 I began looking seriously at options for work. I looked closely into social care, as I get a great sense of fulfilment working with people. Mental health nursing just seemed such a clear extension of this, but it was something that I hadn’t even considered until I started properly researching jobs.

How did you get there?
I studied subjects that I knew would give me a greater understanding of the types of issues that I would be looking at on my nursing course, like Psychology and Biology. I also tried to gain as much experience as I could in health and social care roles. This was hard, as a lot of people don’t recruit under 18’s into care work roles. Instead, I looked further afield and worked for an online peer-to-peer counselling service, Hear4U, for young people going through the family court system.

What is a typical day at work / training like?
Anybody who works in nursing will tell you that there is no such thing as a typical day! It depends very much which clinical area I’m working in, although some common roles and responsibilities include:

*Essential care needs, like nutrition and helping people move about or go out
*Observing individuals to plan care and maintain their safety
*Filling out nursing documentation and assessments
*Drawing up care plans with individuals and their families
*Assessing individual needs and abilities
*Administering medications
*Supporting individuals to maintain family links
*Ward rounds, team meetings, care programme approach reviews and mental health act assessment support

What’s the best thing about what you do?
Definitely working with people. It’s why I love nursing; I wouldn’t be in the role if I didn’t get to work with the people I do.

What are the most challenging things?
Balancing work and life, which is something I didn’t appreciate when I started the course. We have six weeks of holidays a year, the rest of that time is spent in university or in placement, and most of us work second jobs as well. This means that it’s a fine balancing act fitting it all in!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get started in nursing or become a mental health nurse?
First and foremost, you have to really and truly care for the people you wish to work with. If you don’t enjoy caring, nursing isn’t for you.
Try and get experience in supportive roles, it doesn’t have to be in mental health, just in anything that shows you have people skills and commitment to a role.  

Network online too. My blog and twitter accounts have helped me interact with nursing students all over the UK. Use social media to help your career; though remember to be appropriate. In nursing we have to follow a code of conduct set to us by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, including when we’re online. Nobody wants to be removed from a nursing course for posting thoughtless comments on Facebook.

What things do you wish you’d known before starting your course?
Be prepared for the commuting. It’s not a lot of fun standing at the bus stop at 5am, no matter how much you love your job.

Who inspires you?
My dear mum, who has been my rock since I started the course. I couldn’t have done it without her.

Where would you like to be in 5 years?
Working as a qualified mental health nurse and continuing to work directly with individuals in a care setting, potentially focusing on young people and community care.

Tell us more about the Student Nurse Blogger Collective
The Student Nurse Blogger Collective is a joint project run by myself and co-partner @Flonursingtales on Twitter, with support from @BritainsNurses.

We are both passionate student nurse bloggers and wanted to share our knowledge and skills in blogging with the wider student nurse community. In a nutshell we are a one-stop shop for advice and support on blogging for student nurses, covering issues that matter to them.

You can find out more or get involved by contacting @STNBC, @Britainsnurses, @Flonursingtales or @Laura_Sharan92 on Twitter. Take a look at our collective’s posts here.

For more information about careers in medicine and healthcare, check out our medicine career zone.