Hello! My name is Solenne Moore and I’m a 19-year-old first-year student mental health nurse. I was born and raised in Basingstoke, Hampshire and have recently moved down to Plymouth, Devon to study at University.
When did you realise you wanted to become a mental health nurse and why?
I really decided to venture into the career of mental health within the past year. I took a gap year between college and university to figure out what I wanted to pursue and also have the time to do some well awaited travelling too. The career of a mental health nursing was first introduced to me by my mother as she went to University as a mature student in 2012. I have always known I would have a job with a caring role since I was a child. However, I never realised I could specialise in mental health as it really wasn’t widely spoken about while growing up. I could see how much my mother was interested and passionate about this role and it really resonated with me. I could see the help and support she was giving to others and the interesting research she would share with everyone she knew. I have also met some incredibly inspiring people such as George Hodgson, founder of Maison de Choup and Harriet Skidmore who I met through Raleigh International, sharing their stories so openly and being advocates for mental health awareness, which really confirmed my choice in wanting to making a difference.
So far as a first year, I’ve had workshops on communication and engagement. This includes the theory behind talking to your patients in the most effective way, ensuring you can read from their body language, their tone of voice or repetition of certain topics which can facilitate the conversation in order to communicate with your patient in the best way. I feel these are interesting and very important skills which I can take into practice. In the new year, I will start the module ‘Introduction to mental health’ which will begin to go into depth about different disorders and illnesses and their treatments. Although the study of the various mental health conditions is interesting, I feel being out on practice will be the most valuable part, where I will gain a vast amount of experience working both with staff and patients.
Are you going to specialise in a particular area of mental health nursing?
I’m very interested in working within a mother and baby unit, supporting mothers who experience postnatal depression or psychosis. My EPQ for college was based on this, and doing all the research gripped my interest. It would be an area I’d like to specialise in. However, for my first placement, I will be working on an elderly inpatient ward. This means that I will be working with patients who have dementia or cognitive impairment. I think it will be a very rewarding placement as I will be doing a lot of hands-on personal care and I will learn a huge amount. Over the next three years, I will have the opportunities to work within a range of areas which will help me decide which area I’d like to specialise in.
What do you think the hardest part of being a mental health nurse will be?
I think the hardest part might be getting ‘burnt out’ while working. It will be difficult to remain positive while being surrounded by a lot of negative emotions, ensuring that you keep the hope on behalf of your patients. Due to low staffing levels or funding, it might feel at times that I can’t do enough for someone.
Being a nurse, especially a mental health nurse, it can be very emotionally draining. Do you plan to have any self-care or something you will do to wind down after?
Caring for myself and ensuring I remain positive would be putting aside some valuable time with my friends. I find that being surrounded by my friends always lifts my mood. However, I also value having time to myself to wind down, which I feel will be very important especially after a long shift. Being surrounded by people the whole day can be very draining. Therefore it will be important to give myself time to collect my thoughts and chill out. I also have great family support so if I am struggling with my emotions, I have people to reach out to.
Is there any advice you’d give to other people who might be interested in getting involved with mental health nursing?
My advice would be aware of the amount of work that is expected of you. The degree is 50% academic work and 50% practice. Having to do both of these together can be stressful, but it’s all about time management and the importance of staying focused on helping others. If you are a compassionate and caring person, you have the required qualities for this job. If like me you do not previous healthcare experience this will not be an issue as long as you are motivated, passionate and eager to learn and to help others.
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Words by Solenne Moore