I have worked at UoS for 10 years, I am a senior lecturer and course leader for the BSc degree in Mental Health Nursing. I am also a former student of the Suffolk College and I want to support students going through the same journey I did.
I first became a Mental Health Nurse when I was in my late 20s, and I have never looked back. As a nurse, I worked in areas of mental health services that supported people during very difficult times and worked alongside other professionals and service users who inspired me. I wanted to help shape the nurses of the future by giving them learning opportunities that challenge their perceptions and help them grow not just as professionals but also as humans.
In my time as a lecturer, I have seen some changes to the programme itself notably the move from a diploma to a degree. Although there has been some debate about this, it is a positive progression. Nurses are critical thinkers so the qualification awarded at registration should reflect this. Nurses work in a complex care system supporting people with equally complex needs and should be prepared for this. The change to a degree has increased the demands on students however. They are expected to manage the challenges of the health system, academia and to support people through very difficult times, as well as manage their own lives.
Nurses need to be empathic but this requires emotional investment and with this comes dealing with your own personal and emotional distress. In recent times, there has been an increase in openness around mental health and distress amongst students. This is encouraging as it suggests there is a breaking down of stigma and that students are feeling more empowered to talk about their own mental health. However it also means that students appear to be experiencing more distress and need support to develop more resilience.
In my role as a lecturer, I have been fortunate to meet many students from many different backgrounds, all of whom bring a unique contribution to the programme and to nursing. I feel admiration for all the students who graduate from the programme and seeing them in practice reminds me of the honour of being at the onset of their journey, and they in turn will be role models for the next cohort of students.