Life as a new Mental Health nursing student

This blog has taken a bit of a break over the last few weeks & I am pleased to say that we are back in business & looking forward to continuing where we left off.

I am delighted to start us off with a guest post from Kate Hopley who has recently begun her mental nurse training at BCU. Kate has also started a Facebook group for BCU students & wanted to let you know about this as well.

Don’t forget – we are always very keen to publish contributions from anyone who has something to say about mental health – from any perspective, see the ‘about us’ page.

Seacole Building at the Edgbaston Campus of Birmingham City University
Seacole Building at the Edgbaston Campus of Birmingham City University

I started this course in April to learn about and get involved in mental health, to pursue my own interest, and to get job satisfaction by doing something useful in society. These sound like laudable aims I am sure, but I honestly had absolutely no idea what to expect from going back into education approaching 30. I was not entirely confident that walking away from a secure (paper-pushing) career path after 8 years was the ‘sensible’ thing to do, although it certainly felt right…



So I am now almost 4 months into the course and about to start my first placement. I have enjoyed my first few months of university, especially the biology lectures since I used to like that subject at school, although I have found it strange to get back into the whole routine of study after such a gap. I have rediscovered the joy of reading text books and doing homework in bed, but I have also felt a strange unease about not being at work since that is what I am used to doing… I have a lot less cash than I had before, so we’ve adjusted the weekly shop and are eating like students and drinking endless cups of tea instead of wine. Which is good for the liver, I suppose.


I am excited about starting placement as it will be satisfying to get into a hands-on work-based routine again. I went with a fellow student to visit our placement earlier this week and we were both really enthused and impressed by the progressive approaches we were introduced to, and the whole ethos of person-centred older adult care.


Last time I worked in a nursing home (12 years ago) I can remember heated debates at handover between the night shift and the day shift about how many residents had been got up for breakfast. The idea had been to ensure that the routine of getting up, washed, having breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and going to bed ran to the schedule which was most convenient for the nursing staff. My visit to placement showed me just how much things have changed.


Nowadays the emphasis is on the needs of the individual resident: if Doris doesn’t normally get up until 11, and prefers a shower rather than a bath, then she should be supported to continue her personal daily routine. For a patient with dementia or Alzheimer’s, any sort of change of routine or environment can be unsettling and can cause confusion, so person-centred care is important for rehabilitation.


 We were introduced to the local policies of the placement, and how they are founded in research. We were given an idea of how the placement planned to develop further, and were talked through examples of the change process in action. This helped me to see links to our university Personal and Professional Development module and to our placement documents – linking practice to evidence.


I am sure I will learn a lot on placement – I only hope I can remember what we did at university by the time we come back in October!





1. BCU Flickr feed

2. sergis blog’s photostream on Flickr

3. A close reading of the text by khrawlings on Flickr

5 thoughts on “Life as a new Mental Health nursing student

  1. Hi Kate, i am looking at starting student nurse training at Birmingham City Uni, i would like to know what are the modules for the first year.

    i will appreciate your help.

  2. Hi im starting at bcu in sept to do mental health nursing i am looking forward o it but i am also nervous im 24 and leaving home for the first time. I just wanted to know how did u get on did u enjoy it? thanks x

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