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Mental Health Nursing: Running in our blood?

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The University of Stirling has become somewhat of a household name for my family in Ireland. My older sister Céire started studying Mental Health Nursing in the University in 2013 and later graduated in 2016. From hearing about the coursework, the different range of placements and different opportunities available, I decided to follow in her footsteps to pursue a career in nursing. I decided to leave my job as a nursing assistant in Ireland in 2015 to commence studying as a Mental Health Nurse also. Since making the short ferry trip over, Stirling has become a home away from home. It wasn’t long before I found myself working away on the wards gaining extensive skills whilst continually learning.

Whilst Céire and I were both studying and working in Stirling, our youngest sister had just completed secondary school back home in Ireland. She was working full-time in a local nursing home to gain experience before figuring out her future plans. It was during this year she became passionate about caring for others. She began looking at universities to further her learning, and from discussions with us, she decided she too wanted to attend the University of Stirling to study Mental Health Nursing. She is now just a few months into her training, after starting in 2017, and enjoying life in Stirling.

To have three sisters in the same university who all studied the same course may seem strange to some, however with many nurses in our family, it seemed to be more of a vocation. The University of Stirling has since become home to us, and provided us with endless opportunities since arriving in this beautiful city.

The reason I have chosen Mental Health Nursing is that my Mum is a Mental Health nurse and has been for many years.  I remember from a young age she would bring me and my siblings into the ward, to visit the patients to have a chat with them, and on the occasion we would  show the patients our Irish dancing skills. Within our home mental health was always spoken about and of the importance to look after your mental health but also your physical health.

Furthermore it definitely made my decision to become a Mental Health nurse evident with the passion and love my mum has for her job, and hence from this three of her daughters are following in her footsteps.

Sophie Casey
29 December 2017

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Community Nursing: allowing continuity to better patient outcomes – a student nurse’s QI experience

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Nurse Jodie Kennedy

Community Nursing is a highly demanding and complex sector due to an ageing population and the rising number of patients living within the community with long term conditions.

I undertook my first Community placement during the final year of my Nursing degree. I was extremely apprehensive going into this placement as Community Nursing was not an area that I thought that I would enjoy. However, the team that I joined to undertake my Community placement were undoubtedly the most welcoming and supporting team I could have wished for. I was given the opportunity to take my own caseload of patients. As a third-year student it was crucial that I showed enthusiasm, drive and motivation to promote health care within the Community sector. I achieved this through my Quality Improvement Practicum that I devised and implemented within my 10 weeks of being with the team.

Quality Improvement is a major aspect of Nursing.  As healthcare professionals, it is vital that we always strive to deliver evidence based care to promote effective safe practice through education and further learning. My QI Practicum was to “Improve the daily completion of the Daily Pressure Ulcer Safety Cross”. This was done through continuous auditing and devising a new daily planner for the Nursing team to ensure that daily completion was being achieved, as failure to do so leads to discrepancies, and can have an everlasting impact on patient safety.  I’m delighted to say that as a result of completing my QI project on the daily completion of the Safety Cross it went from 22% to 100% accuracy.

On completion of this placement I also left another form of documentation that I had devised: “Daily Pressure Ulcer Safety Cross – Nursing Intervention”. This new form of documentation allowed the team to obtain accurate evidence of the provisions of care that they were delivering to patients on their caseload with pressure area. I thoroughly enjoyed my Community Nursing placement, and on reflection, I was continually learning, and the opportunities within the sector to promote learning were always made available to healthcare professionals.

On receiving the news that I had won the QNIS Undergraduate Award for promoting excellence in Community Nursing, I felt extremely honoured and proud to receive such as prestigious award.  I was overcome with emotion to be informed that my hard work within the Community sector had been recognised, which was something that I set out to achieve whilst undertaking my Quality Improvement project, which strived to promote excellence in care delivery within the Community sector. Winning this award has made me even more determined to continue my Community Nursing Career in the future.

At present, I have just started my first post in an Acute Admissions Unit working with first line assessment and dealing with acute deterioration and patient management. Looking to the future I would like to continue to work with Quality Improvement which requires commitment and drive to change aspects of care delivery that would continue to benefit patient outcomes. I would also like to move away from an acute setting in the future to develop my Nursing career within the Community Sector. I enjoy the thought of one day becoming a Tissue Viability Nurse Specialist or a Colorectal Nurse Specialist.

I feel that Community Nursing allows for continuity which is a huge part in bettering patient outcomes. I hope that throughout my Nursing career that I am able to satisfy patients’ needs, as this is very rewarding and fulfilling as a Nurse.

Jodie Kennedy, 2017 Graduate, University of Stirling
20 November 2017

The role of the Mental Health Nurse: from conception to present – Student Nurse Devon blogs

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Student Nurse Devon Buchanan

Today is to be celebrated for many different reasons, especially when looking at the history of nursing. It is 21 years since the very first intake of nursing students to the University of Stirling, 50 years since the University itself was created, and soon will be 70 years since the creation of the NHS. Not just that, but it’s recognised as Mental Health Awareness day. With all this to celebrate, I thought it provided an exciting opportunity to look back on the history of mental health nursing, and views on mental health to see how it has changed and developed. But just how much progress has been made from the conception of the role of the mental health nurse?

For almost two centuries, mental health nurses have struggled to win recognition for their unique contribution to the health and wellbeing of those in their care.  Nolan (1993) has well documented the historical timeline of mental health nurses, as well as how they have been viewed by society. From very early on nurses rarely had access to resources which would have enabled them to fully care and treat those suffering. It was the doctors who employed the nurses that taught, trained, examined, and decided what their role should be.

Because of this and the constant development of theory and practice, nursing experienced frequent therapeutic shifts over the decades causing even nurses themselves to feel confusion about their own role and name. During the 18th-19th centuries, they went by the term ‘keeper’, and had a small role of domestic duties, caring for ‘patients’ and keeping them manageable for the doctors. It wasn’t until after 1845 with the emergence of the asylum systems and implementation of the medical model, which attributed all mental illness to biological errors, that they then shifted to ‘attendants’ to seem more humanitarian and gained more responsibility.

From the mid-19th century, the term ‘nurse’, widely recognised today, began to be used. This helped to push for ‘mental nurse’ to become an official title in 1923. The model of practice then shifted to the new field of psychology, bringing forward interventions that are still used, such as psychoanalysis and behaviourism. The medical model remerged later in the century when famous treatments like electro-convulsive therapy became popular. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that models pushed for treatment to be done out in the community thanks to the NHS Care and Community act (1990). At this point nurses were encouraged to be autonomous in their profession and develop their skills to lead and solely deliver care and treatment, with the aim to re-skill and empower those with mental illness.

Despite all this growth, development, and therapeutic shift, this is not how mental health nurses were seen by the general public or even some health professionals. Nolan (1993) commented that the historical view of mental health nurses is that they are lazy, lacking in motivation, compassion, and intelligence. The stigma that clouds mental illness has fogged public perceptions of those who suffer from it, and those that try to ameliorate those suffering.

An early example of this is obsessions with witchcraft, which developed during the medieval times. Countless numbers of people (mostly women) were executed as they were believed to be witches. In 1682, Temperance Lloyd was the last person accused and executed in England, but recent research suggests that she suffered from dementia (Wright, J. 2010). The stigma fed into the fear and paranoia of the supernatural, leading to the deaths of too many. Just think, if these ‘witches’ had been alive today, how would they be treated? Would they still be ‘witches’, or people needing help for a mental illness?

Today, mental health nurses aim to work alongside those experiencing mental ill health while promoting independence, advocacy, and person-centred care. Mental Health Nurses are a caring constant for those in need during the lonely and enduring experience of mental illness; supporting their recovery, providing the essential aspects of treatment not many realise are vital: support, comfort, and presence.

Today’s nurses work long, hard, hours to help a person feel themselves again. But yet both are faced with the same dark cloud fogging perceptions. The stigma looming over mental health is still very much present, and can be an obstacle to accessing care. The historical view on mental health nurses remains to be held by many, including health professionals. The amount of comments like “they’re not real nurses” for example I have heard is disheartening for a 3rd student nurse like myself.

However, it is not just the staff that this view effects. Wright (2010) found that when the NHS Care and Community act (1990) came into place the public protested against those with mental illness living and being treated in the community, in fear for public safety. Yet, it is 6 times more likely that those with mental illnesses are to be murdered than commit murder. Such views like this create a vicious cycle leading to discrimination, low treatment effect, or high relapse rates which reinforce stigma (Sartorius, N. 2007). This could be detrimental to those experiencing mental health, and could possibly be linked to the rise of suicides in Scotland in 2016 (728) from the previous year (672) (ChooseLife. 2017). To me, this highlights the importance of further work being done to raise awareness of mental health with the aim to eradicate stigma, but is this enough?

Improvement is always possible; Wright (2010) suggested bringing in mental health nurses to schools as a potential opportunity to increase awareness and knowledge, and for possible early intervention work. Evidence on the impact of mental health nursing is at its strongest in decades, with a drive for more nurses to be recognised for being a key resource in effective delivery of services (Barker. 2009). More is being planned to tackle these issues too, but this is something anyone can help with. Charities supporting mental health are out there offering fund raising events and education, so anyone can help, even if it’s just through being open minded.

Devon Buchanan, Student Nurse, University of Stirling
10 October 2017

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Mother, daughter, sister, wife… mental health nurse? Student Leanne blogs in the Nursing Times

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Student Nurse Leanne Patrick

“As a mental health professional, how do you deal with a struggling family member? Mental health student nurse Leanne describes her experience.

 

“Today, the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) launched the Going To Be campaign that raises awareness about the number of children affected by mental health problems and how lack of support impacts their goals, dreams and ambitions for the future. ”

For the full post, published 11 May 2017 please visit Leanne’s Nursing Times blog online.

15 May 2017

About to start your nursing degree? Check this advice from Student Nurse Kim

Nursing_123RF_31309931_lStarting as a student nurse can be pretty scary and nerve wracking but it’s full of excitement and surprises. You might even find that it is the best decision you make. After two years as a student nurse, having never looked back, here are a few things that might help you get through first year. If not the whole of first year, at least the first few weeks!!

  • Introduce yourself to as many people as you can. You might not know everyone in your class, and you might not see them every day, but your cohort are your colleagues. The friends you make here will get you through the good and bad and they can last for life.
  • Attend all classes, and attend on time! You’ll no doubt hear rumours that it’s OK not to go to all the classes but it isn’t. They are for your benefit, you’re learning and it really does help with placement and exams. Also, try turn up on time, it’s just rude if you don’t.
  • Talking of exams and essays, prepare in advance!! Don’t leave them till the last minute, take advantage of the study time, the student support and the lecturers’ knowledge. Remember to proof-read your work too, as it can make a difference in the marks. You can always get help from friends, they provide the best support (and the coffee)!
  • Take advantage of the skills groups and sessions, including the communication ones. These are where you might see equipment for the first time, experience a skill or work as a team. You will do all sorts in these groups, so make the most of them. Use the time and take advantage of the knowledge of the lecturers, doesn’t matter if you make an error here, they will show you how to correct it and learn from your mistakes. You can often get a good laugh at these sessions, trying out a leg bandage for the first time is always interesting!
  • Placement. This is 50% of the course. The best advice here, make the most of it. Ask millions of questions, get hands on experience, research what you do, speak to other students, share your experience (without breaching confidentiality of course!) and enjoy it. You’re only in placement for a few weeks at a time so do what you can. You will be surprised how much you will learn in a short space of time. And remember to always act professionally, both in and out of placement.
  • Everyone gets a Personal Tutor; they are there for you for the three years you are in university. So why not get to know them. You’ll see them every semester after placement anyway, but nothing is stopping you speaking to them. They are not only there for your placement sign off, but a whole host of things, could be study-related or it could be personal, you don’t have to worry alone, they will listen and give the best support available.
  • So, this is your school for three years, your home if you like, then why not get involved? There are always opportunities to be a part of what the nursing course has to offer. From helping trial new interview styles to promoting your school to others there is plenty to get involved with. Offer to attend conferences and present your work – take them – great for your CV! There is no better way to show your passion for nursing than helping others.

Well, that I think covers the most important areas to think about and consider when joining us on this amazing journey. Make the most of these three years, ask questions, get creative, be inspired and be inspiring. I hope everyone enjoys their time at University just as much as I have and I wish you all the best.

© Kimberley Blues, Student Nurse (Adult), University of Stirling
29 August 2016

Witnessing poverty and severe illness motivated me to nurse

CaitlinUrquhart2I have always enjoyed helping people, in every aspect of life therefore nursing is something I have always considered. However it wasn’t till after my travels to South Africa – witnessing poverty and severe illness – that it was made clear to me that I wanted to strive and work to the best of my ability to become a successful, compassionate nurse.

I went out to South Africa with a charity called GAGA (Goodwill And Growth for Africa) volunteering constructing a vegetable garden in a pre-school. Here we worked as a team to plan and put it all together – this was not as easy as we had first thought. With solid, dry ground and just the basic tools we did our best. But we worked together and finished it within our 2 week visit. We involved the children who attended the school along with some of the teachers, allowing them to learn new skills.

GAGA Logo 2 - Copy [28461]We also had the opportunity to visit other projects that the charity were funding which was fantastic. We went to see another pre-school, a medical centre and a home/family that looked after and cared for people of all ages that suffered from disabilities, illness or children who were left abandoned by their parents. Such amazing work that goes on in this country and they are so grateful for the very little they have.

SAGROUPPICcropThese projects were all difficult things to see, the poverty that they live in and put up with on a daily basis is unreal. People don’t understand until they witness this first hand. What a massive eye-opener this trip was, it has showed me that I want to make a difference and help in anyway I can. I feel that by becoming a nurse this would be possible. I would love to go back and do more volunteering in this country!

Caitlin Urquhart, 1st year Student Nurse, University of Stirling
19 June 2016

Florence Nightingale Students Day 2016 – Student Nurse Robert blogs

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Florence Nightingale

I had the privilege of attending the Florence Nightingale Foundation Students day this year, which was an extremely enjoyable experience. It was a great opportunity to meet fellow passionate and enthusiastic students and to discuss some of the issues that our facing our profession currently and in the future.

The day commenced with a panel discussion with four inspirational nurse leaders within their own individual fields. There were a number of great discussions had around nurse education, leadership and research. The panel provided some interesting insight into all of these areas. I found that the members of the panel were encouraging and inspirational speakers, in particular the areas of leadership and management, encouraging all of the students to be the nurse leaders of the future.

There was some interesting discussion regarding nurse education with a particular focus on generic training of nurses and the proposed cuts to the student nurse bursary.  I feel though however that some of the comments where misunderstood by the panel in these areas. For the generic teaching aspect the questions were answered and reflected on about a generic course for all nurses however the question was framed at not reducing specialised nurse courses but including more content from all fields within each student’s specialised field of nursing.

In regards to the bursary I feel that the panel where generally supportive however when I asked about the concerns I had for the students nurses of the future wellbeing, particularly in relation to workload, that this question was not addressed. I feel that this was an opportunity for an organisation as respected as the Florence Nightingale Foundation to take a stand with Student Nurses and help stop a series of cuts that will have a serious effect on future nurse numbers and the wellbeing of student nurses.  The panel where very knowledgeable and extremely encouraging however and reignited my passion after a long three years of training.

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Student Nurse Robert Murray

The only addition that could have been made was more input from the devolved nations on the panel. Each member was based within England and I think a broader discussion with all parts of the health services in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island being represented within the panel could have given more in depth discussion around national issues.

The next part of the day included a tour of the older part of Guy’s Hospital and Florence Nightingale Museum. It was fascinating to see and hear the changes in nurse education, practice and hear stories of nursing from the Second World War within the hospital. The museum itself was fascinating to me as I did not know a lot about Florence Nightingale and I discovered why she is such an inspiration to many nurses around the world. I particularly enjoyed seeing her famous lamp which was not how I expected it to look and to see her stuffed owl that she had as a pet during her time nursing in the Crimean War.

The final organised activity was a commemoration service for Florence Nightingale at Westminster Abbey. It was a beautiful service in the most beautiful of settings and the sound of the choir singing was utterly memorising. At the service we had the chance to meet various influential people within nursing, be that NHS, government or unions. One of the most interesting parts was watching Jeremy Hunt leave the service quickly and I am sure that many of the Student Nurses would have loved to have had a conversation with him!

One of the best experiences of the whole day was having the chance to meet such fantastic student nurses from all over the UK. It was great to see such enthusiasm, commitment and passion from the future of the nursing profession.

During my time training to be a Mental Health Nurse, I have taken every opportunity given to me and I have tried my best through many roles to make the experience of Student Nurses within my University a pleasurable and empowering one. Admittedly as I approach the end of my studies my passion has waned slightly, probably due to tiredness and the continual work of a nursing student.

The chance to meet similar minded students who were continually striving for the best results for their patients, colleagues and fellow students filled me with inspiration again and has helped me build networks that hopefully in future can help improve the services we deliver throughout the UK.

Robert Murray, Student Nurse, University of Stirling
16 May 2016