Tag Archives: student nurse

Half way through my first placement

This is the second guest post from Kate Hopley (first post here) who recently commenced a course here at BCU. Kate has also started a BCU mental health nurse student area on Facebook

I am now more than half way through my first placement, and I have had many new experiences since writing my last entry. I have been involved in all of the day to day nursing duties: meds round; ward round; helping residents to wash and dress; assisting residents with eating meals; completing all the relevant paperwork and, most enjoyably, getting to know each of the residents by spending time with them. 

A difficult time

I had a difficult couple of days a week or so ago, in the midst of several deaths. Over the week following the deaths I noticed how stories of those who had died were told over and over again in the staff room, alongside stories of other deaths which had been experienced. I reflected that the communal processing of grief was important for nurses, because fitting our experiences together and telling and re-telling them led to an acceptance of death and to moving on. We knew that we had done our very best to care for our patients during their stay at the unit, and in the end I felt honoured to have cared for them at the end of their lives, and no longer sad. 


Another subject which struck me forcefully over the past weeks is the need for nurses to act as advocates for people suffering with dementia, and especially for those who are in the stages of the disease where they may have lost the ability to communicate verbally. Most of the residents at my placement are not able to choose from a menu prepared to their liking – they rely upon the nursing staff to make informed choices on their behalf to ensure that they eat a varied and balanced diet. Many of the residents cannot walk about unaided, and so cannot choose whether to sit in a sunny window or right next to the television or who to sit by. Nursing staff must consider what they know of the person’s history alongside non-verbal clues as to what mood or preferences are being expressed on that day, and then make an informed choice. 

A good environment?

I have also spent some time reflecting on the physical and sensory state of the healthcare environment for those who are inpatients with dementia. If the rooms are moved around every day this may be confusing for the person with dementia; if different and unfamiliar staff help residents to wash each morning this may be confusing and frightening; if someone starts to offer food on a spoon without first explaining what they are going to do this could be frightening. If music is played or interesting sensory objects are available and nursing staff spend time talking to or sitting with the residents, then this creates a space for the residents to engage with the world around them and to express themselves. I have spent a lot of time getting to know the residents better, and over time I have learned to understand what they are saying to me better, and finding that it is indeed possible to have a conversation, one side of which consists solely of an array of meaningful facial expressions and gestures. 

I am absolutely loving my placement and I will be really sad to leave. Every day something happens that puts smile on my face, and every interactive response from a resident, be it a belly laugh or simply the raising of an eyebrow, makes placement feel nothing like a job at all, and everything like a satisfying vocation.


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

From Student Nurse to Registered Practitioner – A transition fuelled with Anxiety!

I am delighted to introduce another guest post on the Mental Health Nurse Lecturers Tea party. This comes from one of our soon to be qualified student nurses, Julie Bennett.

Julie describes her feelings on coming to the end of her time at BCU – she has promised to keep us updated about how she gets on after this.



So, Three years draw to a close and what a wonderful experience. A wealth of friends, university life, fun laughter, tears and tantrums but on we go, pulling each other through with hope and optimism from peers, mentors and tutors alike.


More incentive came from the NHS via the generous bursary and dependents allowance, which kept my four children clothed and fed, not to mention the 85% contribution towards the very expensive child care costs, (as much as my rent per month)! Ok, the children haven’t loved going to the child minders some days, but hey, needs must!


The practice placement managers and clinical practice allocations staff have been very supportive; my final placements have been in the community, which has meant family friendly hours and have enabled me to complete my training.


And no council tax! What a bonus….many positives to being a student nurse not to mention discounts in many stores and the cinema!


Would it be fair to say that the transition period is full of mixed emotions? Yes, I did it, I stuck it out, jumped through hoops and achieved my ambition, before long that photo of me in my cap and gown will be on my mantlepiece, I am so proud. (if I still have a mantlepiece)!


So now for the anxiety part of it all, explained wonderfully by two of my peers during a workshop at the recent Mental Health Conference…..The BIG DIVE! Where is the water? Oh dear, there is none…….


Armed with skills and knowledge of  theoretical frameworks, before long my registration number will be in the post and off I go……to the job centre! Via the housing department and the council tax office and the search for a child minder who starts at 6.30am and finishes at 9pm.


A community mental health job would be ideal! But band 5 newly qualified nurse in the community? Mmm A prayer or two maybe needed for that one!


So what is my predicament? Frustration at my own lack of faith, I am sure though that these concerns are shared by many soon to be qualified nurses. All that hard work for nothing but personal achievement?


Unable to find a job with hours to fit in with my children, chuck in the council tax bill child care costs (minus the 85% contribution) and I am actually worse off.  Not to mention the loss of opportunity to develop my skills in an area I am interested in (CAHMS). My final hope of getting some income to keep the roof over my head was working on the bank as a HCA but I am informed, as a newly qualified you cannot work the bank!!


Well, it was a good three years, I have met some wonderfully inspiring people and it has all been for a good cause – an experience I will never forget.


So, all you young free and single peeps out there, the world is your oyster! Travel the world, get that job and nurse those people who need you, treat students how you would have liked to be treated and reach for the stars! Be Leaders and research best practice all the way, I wish you well.


Despite the lack of jobs compared to the amount of graduates (baffles me why they train so many of us when there are no jobs), there is a job for everyone if you can be as flexible as possible, have a supportive family network to look after your kids and a decent car that will get your anywhere!


I will remember you all when I look at my graduation photo and never regret my uni days. Oh dear how bleak it all seems!! lol


Now…..if you think I am going to give up that easily, you are mistaken! Yes! These are my very real concerns and if I let negativity in it will beat me! My Guardian Angel did not get me this far to leave me stranded, I will continue to pursue my goals and work with service users and their families regardless of how dire the job market might appear, there is something out there for me but I have to get of my ass and find it! (even if it is counselling the  old dear in the post office queue whilst waiting to cash our meagre benefits! Lol)


Keep the faith Guys, this transition is make or break, time to “sort the men from the boys” and as my dad would say….”What’s for ya, won’t go by ya!!”


Good Luck all you final year Students