Welcome to my Thoughts on becoming a Mental Health Nurse

My name is Amanda Butler, and I have just started my second year as a Student Mental Health Nurse in Manchester. I am not your average eighteen to twenty something student; I am what they call a mature student. I have tried various career pathways in the past, including IT and teaching, but it is only now in my early middle years, that I have actually really found what it was I was looking for.

Like many things in life, it was a couple of major events that allowed me to reach my turning point. I lost both of my maternal grandparents to dementia – Alzheimer’s and Vascular dementia, respectively. I had been exceptionally close to both of these lovely gentle people, and I knew that I had to do something to help similar people, and their families, who were suffering with dementia. The disease is very cruel and often completely changes peoples’ personalities. The decline is progressive and it can be emotionally painful to witness.

The first part of my plan was to start a new job as a Care Manager in a residential care home which had a dementia community. The work was really tiring, both physically and mentally, but I found that I really enjoyed it and achieved enormous satisfaction from it. The residents were so trusting, so generally helpless and grateful for the workers’ efforts. I loved to hear the residents’ stories; they were an endearing and interesting combination, of both accuracy and confusion. It was impossible not to feel attached to these lovely vulnerable people and to care for them, with compassion and commitment, like you would your own family member.

After 12 months experience of working full time as a carer, I applied to various local universities for a place as a student nurse. I applied for the mental health branch, without a degree of hesitation, as I knew that I wanted to help not only people with dementia, but all those individuals with debilitating depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia and so forth. I feel strongly that sufferers of these conditions have been stigmatised and discriminated against for far too long. More mental health professionals are desperately needed to bring about the necessary changes, and I want to be one of them.

I found the university I was looking for in May 2012. Upon arriving, I received the slightly disappointing news that all the places for September 2012 had already gone, but today we would be competing for March 2013 places. This news was initially unwelcome, but when I thought about it rationally, it didn’t really matter if I got my place on the course; I would just have to be more patient!

The other students that I met that day were really friendly, and I was impressed with the facilities that were provided on campus. I had already passed one hurdle by being selected for an interview, but before that took place I was presented with two tests to tackle in numeracy and literacy. The literacy one was fine, as that is my favourite subject, but I was really nervous about the numeracy test, as mathematics has never been a natural strength of mine. Looking back, it did not go particularly well, as I never had enough time to complete all of the questions. I had revised beforehand, but I know that I was very slow in completing my calculations.

The face-to-face interview however, I feel, went well, as I found the interviewer easy to talk to. We comfortably chatted about our common interest in mental health issues, and so I felt really positive when I left to go home. I eagerly awaited to find out if I had been successful, and after about two weeks the good news appeared on my on-line UCAS account. I was going to be a Student Mental Health Nurse. I was going to make a difference. I was absolutely ecstatic and didn’t know how I would wait until March!

It is now April 2014 and I have completed my first year of training, and I am officially one third of the way to becoming a registered Mental Health nurse. The tutors say that the second year of our training tends to be the hardest, as it is still quite a way until the end of the course, the academic work steps up a level, and our mentor’s expectations on placements will be slightly higher because we are second year students. I am ready for the challenge however. I never expected it to be easy, and I am raring to go. Welcome to Year Two!

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