I came into my Adult and Mental Health nursing degree straight from college and at the age of 18. I had little to no experience working in this field. I was young. I was quiet. I was shy. Even before I started, I had people telling me that I should just stick to adult nursing, if I was even ‘brave enough’ to study nursing at all. They told me I was too young, too naïve and not emotionally stable enough at this age, to be able to manage. I was once told on placement that because I was quiet, they didn’t think I’d be able to cope.
People young and old, healthcare professionals and teachers, seemed to assume that because of my age, I did not have enough ‘life experience’ to work in mental health. Even now, on my placements, I still get people questioning me. But how can ‘life experience’ ever be measured? The subject of mental health is everywhere. I have grown up in a world where it is more spoken about and more accepted every day. Does that not give me better life experience?
No one really knows what anyone else has been through. From school to college to university life, from friends to family to colleagues, ranging from mild to severe, I have seen many people suffering. How much do I need to witness to be a ‘good’ mental health nurse?
In this line of work, we do come across many harrowing situations. Therefore, witnessing ‘too much’ can be detrimental to your ability to effectively care for your patients. Either because having constant reminders of previous challenging situations is difficult to cope with or because you become numb to distressing incidences.
However, not everyone I’ve worked with has put me down. When I first started university, some of my lecturers and early mentors told me that students with lots of previous work in the field, sometimes find it disadvantageous. They may not have been taught properly and are not always so flexible to learn. In fact, many of my mentors and colleagues on placement have boosted my confidence; they tell me I’m eager and always willing to work. But more importantly, many patients and nurses have told me that they prefer my quieter nature. I am there and I listen. I don’t intimidate but I don’t let myself be intimated. I have been able to form strong therapeutic relationships during 1 on 1 conversations. In activities, I help others who are less confident, less able. I may not be a big presence in a room, but I am there for those who need me. I have always been able to remain calm in emergencies.
I may be young; I may not always be the loudest voice in the room and I may not have had the most amount of prior experience. But I have what it takes to be a dual field adult and mental health nurse, wherever I decide to work. I am proud of myself. I want others to be confident in who they are. Do not let other people put you down. As nurses we must bring our own personalities and natures to our care. Different patients will respond better to different approaches. We must work as a team to build each other up and work with each other’s strengths to provide the best possible care to the patients that we came into this career for.