Fifth placement over and exam complete!

Last Friday I officially completed my fifth placement out of an eventual nine – so there are just four more to go before I qualify as a nurse. Yesterday I also sat the Year Two Semester Two exam on physiology, pathophysiology and assessment, which was three hours in length. All the hard work is hopefully starting to pay off, and the distant end of March 2016 is gradually getting nearer, and is less than half-way now.

My fifth placement with the Crisis Team (now called the Home Based Treatment Team) was exceptionally good, and I feel that I learned plenty. My prime objective was to complete a full patient assessment and all the associated paperwork – face-to-face client contact, initial assessment documentation, risk assessment and care plan. Fortunately this placement provided plenty of opportunities to practise these skills, and I had the benefit of working alongside a very experienced team, who demonstrated some very skilled interactions and interventions with clients.

It was good to support patients within their home environment, and to help prevent them from deteriorating and having to go into hospital. Naturally, this was not always possible, but on the opposite side of this process, we would often support patients upon arriving back home after being discharged from hospital. When improvement and stability was gradually achieved, it was then also possible to transfer the care of our patients back to the Community Mental Health Team.

fingerprints

Alongside the placement I was able to complete four ‘spoke’ days, in order to gain extra experiences. Two days were spent with the RAID (Rapid Assessment Interface and Discharge) teams at two separate A & E departments, one day was spent at an inpatient psychiatric hospital, and another was spent with a Community Mental Health Nurse. During the latter, I was fortunate enough to experience a visit to a closed high security prison, and upon entering, was subjected to a body search and scan, the taking of my index finger prints and the removal of my shoes. It was amazing to go inside the old Victorian prison and onto the wing. If anyone can recall the old prison comedy drama called Porridge; well that is exactly what it was like inside.

prison

Other notable placement experiences included: talking to a suicidal patient over the phone, and being able to calm them down enough for me to call for an ambulance; making an adult safeguard referral; and taking part in a home visit involving an interpreter. It was a rich and rewarding placement experience with a wonderful team to assist me in my learning; I was very fortunate.

I had been building up to yesterday’s exam for the whole of my placement, and initially I was concerned that I would forget much of my university lecture content whilst working in the community, but fortunately this was not the case. The main medical conditions that we focused on were diabetes, heavy alcohol consumption, osteoarthritis, and stress, anxiety and depression. During placement I was able to meet real-life patients with all of these conditions, and I found that I was able to talk with them and advise them directly, with confidence, about many aspects of their condition. Much of my recent learning became relevant with clear practical application and knowledge based in reality. Accompanied with some evening and weekend revision, I felt well prepared for yesterday’s event.

exam room

Like all exams that I take, I wrote non-stop for the whole duration of three hours. Historically, I never finish exams early, and usually have to rush with the final question; and yesterday was no exception. Fortunately I was able to sleep well the night before, and did not let nerves affect me too much. I was panicking a little about remembering quotations and evidence sources to back up my knowledge, but most of them proved to be lodged in my brain and were utilised on the day. I do not yet know when the results are due to be released, but I am guessing that it might be in a couple of months’ time. Fingers and toes crossed – how will I bear the suspense? I will be very scared on the day that the marks are released.

mental capacity act       mental health code      mental health act manual

Hungry for yet more learning, I am now looking forward to starting the final semester of Year 2. The module is called Nursing Practice and Decision Making, and I am already acquiring some of the texts ready for some preparatory reading. There is still a small part of Semester Two remaining, and I am particularly looking forward to some specific learning regarding dementia; as this is a topic that is personally very close to my heart. Additional to my university learning, I have also secured myself a day on an Advanced Dementia student seminar next month, which I am greatly looking forward to. I have also just become a Dementia Friend too.

dementia friends

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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!