Month: January 2016


Laura Darrall, gives us a heartfelt insight into her amazing social media campaign

Laura Darral

The hardest thing about mental illness is pretending that you’re ok. It’s exhausting putting on a smile that doesn’t quite reach your eyes when all your body and mind is screaming for you to do is lie down, cry and not get up.

You can’t pull yourself together because at that moment in time you don’t have the strength or cognitive ability to do so. You try to be ok and to seem fine because you don’t want anyone to worry, you don’t want to be a burden to your family and friends.

And the best thing you can do is to talk about it, which is why I am writing this and why I created #itaffectsme. I am asking you all to take a selfie with a post-it note on your head, that says #itaffectsme, upload it to social media, donate to Mind and then share, share, share!

#itaffectsme is simply the statement that at some point in all our lives we have seen or known mental illness in ourselves or others and have been affected or moved by it.

And the selfie is to stop people having the need to hide, or be embarrassed by it, to show a united front and to express the universality of these illnesses. Mental illness has no prejudices about who it affects, so we should have no prejudices about it.

The idea for #itaffectsme first came to me after I came out the other side of a mental breakdown, six months of panic attacks, anxiety, OCD and depression. I was sat on the edge of my bed and for the first time in months I felt clarity of thought and a fire in my belly and I knew that I had to use it to make a change, to make people unafraid to speak out about mental health and to put an end to stigma surrounding it. But I had no idea how, so I said a prayer, looked over at my desk, spotted the post-its and then it was like a light bulb switched on in my brain, a real Eureka moment, and it has snowballed from there.

I am so overwhelmed and thrilled with the response. If I can get just one person who is suffering to speak out and ask for help then it is worth every single tear I ever shed last year.

What is so hard about mental illness is that, unlike when you have broken your leg and you can clearly see all the “broken” bits, when your brain is broken it is so difficult to distinguish between what is you, your personality and what is the illness. This is one of the many reasons mental health is such a taboo subject and people feel uncomfortable talking about it because they don’t want to be thought of as crazy.

The health care workers who helped me most were non-judgemental and not patronising in any way shape or form. They listened and understood.

Mental illness is so so, so, so common, all of us will experience it at some point in our lives whether for ourselves or through a loved one. Ruby Wax, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson have all suffered and spoken out about it, they are the tip of the iceberg. What we need to do is get educated and we need to talk because that is where true happiness and hope comes from: talking, communication and connection.

We need to get mental health education on the curriculum to give our children a future where they too are unafraid to speak out and ask for help. 1 in 4 people suffer from mental illness: that is 25% of the world’s population. It is staggering and we need to arm our children with knowledge, with compassion and build a world for them where the word “stigma” is extinct.

Life is too short, too precious not to talk, not to tell the truth. So please, join everyone who has already done it and show your support:

@itaffectsme @MindCharity

Selfie+post-it+donation+share = #itaffectsme

Text SUPPORT to 70660 to donate £3 to Mind

If you are interested in working in Mental Health Nursing, click here.

Spotlight on an academic

60 second interview….Ian Noonan

Why did you choose a career in nursing?

At school I had wanted to be either a social worker or a vicar, and with hindsight, there are aspects of working as a mental health nurse that include parts of both of those roles. After my first degree, I was working as a freelance musician and training as a music therapist when I first started to work with people who were experiencing mental illness on a music therapy placement. I was really envious of the mental health nurses who were able to respond flexibly and individually to their clients’ needs using a range of different theoretical approaches (social; psychological; medical; interpersonal), using interventions that met the clients’ needs rather than operating within one theoretical approach (as I perceived music therapy to be at the time). I loved the pragmatism, eclecticism, inventiveness and creativity of the nurses’ work with people who were having very distressing experiences. It seemed real: warm, accepting, genuine and empathic. So, I decided to retrain and came back to King’s College London to study mental health nursing.

What do you enjoy most about working as an Mental Health Nurse?

Sackett (2006) describes evidence based medicine as the interaction between the best available evidence, the client’s values, and the clinician’s experience. Mental illness is experienced differently by each one of us so it is sometimes difficult to generalise from the evidence which needs to try and define discretely phenomenon such as schizophrenia or depression, about which there remains debate. This means that as mental health nurses we have to consciously engage with the client’s values and develop our personal and experiential knowledge in order to be able to provide the best possible care for people with whom we are working. I love the demands of being able to access and critique the best available evidence and think how it might be adapted or sometimes even rejected in order to work within a framework that is acceptable and meaningful to the client or carer. This in turn has impacted on how my values and experience have developed. I learn from the people with whom I work.

What do you like most about teaching?

There are moments in teaching when students apply the learning to their own practice in a way that is unique and meaningful to them. It is a sort of eureka moment when someone in a lecture or seminar starts to use the ideas and information being presented and apply it to their practice. I like to think of teaching as creating a gap. A sort of potential or tension between the students’ existing knowledge and experience and something new which if exciting and relevant enough will pull them forward, closing the gap and creating the starting point for the next step. In their Tidal model of mental health practice, Barker and Buchanan-Barker (2004) describe one of the core commitments in mental health care as “crafting the step beyond” – working with the person as they are now, to imagine and envisage the next step and move forward together. I think the best sort of teaching does the same thing.

What motivates you to do your research?

In short – it is when a question needs to be answered. I am currently involved in two research projects and supervising two more MSc students and five BSc students for their dissertations. As a supervisor, I see it as my role to help shape a student’s interest and enthusiasm for a topic into an answerable question. If we get the question right, the rest is easy! Research, teaching and practice all inform each other and for me the motivation comes from their synergistic influence on each other.

What is the aim of your research and what do you hope to discover?

I am running the Self-harm Cessation and Recovery Study (SCARS) and am on the advisory panel for the Qualitative Understanding of the Experience of Suicidal Thoughts (QUEST) both of which are trying to help us understand better the experiences of people who self-harm or who have suicidal thoughts. The first study is attempting to co-construct a model of self-harm cessation with adults who used to self-harm and have managed to stop or choose to no longer self-harm. The hope is that understanding the process of stopping and maintaining a changed behaviour will help us to support people who need help to stop. The second study has a more public health focus and is funded by The Samaritans and Network Rail. We are particularly interested in why people choose or think about particular places as a location or method of attempted suicide and what we might be able to do to reduce this. One of my masters students is also working on this project.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I am a musician and play clarinet and sax in a number of orchestras, bands, and for music theatre and opera. I love living and working in central London and make the most of the opportunity to see and take part in a wide range of arts events and performances. With the Nightingale Choir; Culture & Care Programme; Nursing and the Arts and Arts & Humanities in Midwifery Practice modules, this passion often spills over into the day job!

Why should students choose to study nursing at King’s?

We have excellent relationships with a wide range of partner trusts, private and non-statutory mental health providers and so are able to offer students the combination of exciting, stimulating and challenging clinical education alongside expert and experienced teaching and learning and cutting edge mental health research. We are also a core part of the King’s College London community and there are many opportunities to engage with other disciplines; the Associateship of King’s College London and every possible walk of life – all of which have the potential to influence your knowledge, values and experience as a mental health nurse.

What’s the best advice you could give students who want to study at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery at King’s?

Start to think about your own values about mental health and mental illness and be open to exploring and challenging these values so that you can develop and learn from the people who will be in your care.

Ian Noonan RN (Mental Health) AKC FHEA
King’s Teaching Fellow & Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing
King’s College London
Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery

For more information on Mental Health Nursing, click here.

My pathway into Children’s Nursing

I applied for BSc Children’s Nursing when I was 25 years old. Prior to this, I studied and graduated with a BA in English and American Studies. Not really knowing what I wanted to do after graduation, I accepted a job my friend signposted me to: working on a summer play scheme with children with severe learning and physical disabilities and behaviour. It was a tough four weeks and a very steep learning curve, but I realised that I loved the rewarding nature of this work and the children.

I worked for four years in special schools, community play schemes and respite. During those years I toyed with the idea of nursing and also looked into teaching. However, I only wanted to work in special schools which proved a difficult route and also very limiting to me in terms of progression and scope. I finally made the decision to go into children’s nursing, realising that the job would be perfect for me as I really enjoyed working with parents, supporting children with life-long and life-limiting conditions, the wide variety of specialities that there are in paediatrics and the opportunity to move around these areas of expertise.

My previous work experiences were really beneficial to me especially the practice placements. The challenging nature of my background means that in most circumstances I am calm and able to problem solve and my experience of supporting very stressed parents has been invaluable. Rather than the practical side of the nursing course, I was more worried about the academic side.

Having accepted a place at King’s College London, it dawned on me that the academia would be testing. However, there was no need to worry as the support from academic and other staff within the university was, and is, brilliant. Another large body of support comes from your peers. When people say that you make friends for life on your nursing course, they are telling the truth. The course can be very hard at times and the people on your course are going through exactly the same things as you are – it is only natural you bond!

Not only has the course itself been life affirming, but I have had the opportunity to do more than I ever realised and it has stretched me beyond all capabilities I ever thought I had possessed. I am part of the KCL Nursing and Midwifery Society and I am the sub-editor of the nursing and midwifery section of the GKT Gazette, the oldest hospital journal in the world. I have had opportunities in practice, as I am placed in a tertiary centre of excellence, such as observing innovative spinal surgery and experiencing neonatal research which is not practiced anywhere else in the UK. Despite the challenges faced by the NHS, I feel really privileged to be a part of amazing multi-disciplinary teams and, more importantly, of families’ lives in what is arguably the worst situation they may ever find themselves in if their child is very poorly. This is what gets me through the tough times during the course. This is nursing – a profession I am proud to be joining.

Charli, 3rd Year, BSc Children’s Nursing

For more information on Children’s Nursing, click here.

Can part-time work fit with your studies?

I received mixed feedback about how easy it was to do part-time work alongside the university course but, from the start, I knew I wanted to work to keep my expenses under control.

The course, like any other university course, has some quieter periods throughout the year which is why casual work is so useful. It allows you to work more when it’s quiet and less when you have more hours on placement because you are in control of booking your own shifts.

Throughout my first term I experimented with a few different jobs to find out what would work for me. After struggling to find (healthcare assistant) HCA work on the bank, I decided to postpone that idea until I had done at least one placement as it would be easier to work within my principal Trust at that point.

I did temporary work in an office, as a waitress and with the University. If I could give any advice it would be don’t be afraid to tell your employer ‘no’. I had to remind myself that I moved to London to do the course and if I was so burned out from working all the time, I would not get the best experience from being a student nurse as possible. Saying that, London is a fantastic place to find casual, part-time work as there are so many working opportunities in the City. Therefore, if you need to work during the course, it will be easy to find work. The best opportunity I got was to work within the University, as you won’t be a student forever and it’s a great way of meeting people within the faculty!

Having a little extra cash has helped me enjoy my time off even more, allowing me to spend Christmas in a warmer climate. The hard work has been worth it!

Geraldine, 1st Year, PG Dip Adult Nursing

For more information on PG Dip Adult Nursing, click here.

For more information on the Perseverance Trust scholarship, click here.

A warmer Christmas break

My Christmas ‘Snowman’

A Day In The Life Of A Student Nurse On A Children’s Ward

05:30 Alarm goes off… I grunt and roll out of bed! *YAWN*

05:45 I always have breakfast before I start placement, as you need energy from the second you arrive! I am very precise so always have the same thing (Frosties and a glass of orange juice) but your breakfast needs to have energy/carbs in it!

06:30 I scramble my bits together as I may not have always packed my bag the night before, uniform – check, lunch – check, notepad for writing down new learning – check, pen (AND SPARE!) – check, ID card and badge – check. Ready to head out the door.

07:15 Arrive at placement and change (nurses aren’t allowed to travel in the uniform). I then go to the staff room and make sure I’m all ready for handover and to be allocated.

07:30 Handover from the night staff starts (there’s usually a lot of yawning and reluctance – never from the students though!!) We are given an overview of all the ward patients and then allocated specific patients who will be in the care of my mentor and me for the day. I will then normally discuss with my mentor which patients I would like to take leadership of caring for; I also tell them about my aims for the day and what I hope to achieve in my assessment booklet.

08:00 By this time we’ll have had our second handover from the individual nurses who’ve been caring for our patients overnight. I always make a plan which looks like a table, with timings and tasks to prioritise my day. Many patients’ medications are due around

0800-0900 so I will also log onto MedChart (digital drug chart) and check on when my patients are due meds as I don’t want to give any important ones late or miss any out.

09:00 By this time I will have settled into a routine and have finished any morning medications. The doctors will often start coming round to see how the patients were overnight. It’s always vital to go round with them to answer their questions and receive any updates or changes to how we should care for the patients. It’s hard to juggle listening to the doctors while being required to help other professionals or families, but you must ensure you spend equal time with everyone.

10:00 Normally at 10am blood pressures and other measurements are taken on our patients – some have this done more often, some less often. This normally takes 5 mins per child.

11:00 Definitely time for my break. I always bring snacks to keep my energy levels up and I take 5 minutes of my break to regroup and check my schedule/ to-do list – then I know what I need to do when I return. The staff room is always chatty and you’re never alone on your break, even if you have it at a funny time.

12:00 This signals the arrival of the lunch trolley *Bell Rings* some patients need help getting their lunch or eating their lunch, so I always like to walk the ward and check everyone is eating and has someone to help them if they need it. It is normally quieter after lunch and some of the children will head off to the hospital school if they haven’t already visited in the morning.

13:00-15:00 During this time we complete many of the day’s tasks which can include chasing referrals, meeting with other professionals to discuss the care of our patients or discharging our patients – it varies so much from day-to-day. We also write our nursing notes about the care and condition of our patients. We now do this on a computer so there’s often a squabble for access to one of our computers on wheels! At 2pm we also have to repeat blood pressure and all the other measurements again.

16:00 By 4pm its time for a second break and a main meal (I’m not sure which meal this counts as). Again, I check my list and usually plan what’s going to happen next.

17:00 It’s the supper trolley now. After supper is a bit of a rush, but often the patients are distracted by visitors or by volunteers who come and play with them and natter to them. This means we have a little bit of time to check medicines and ensure we’ve completed all our tasks.

18:00 I like to grab my mentor at this point for five minutes of feedback/discussion and see if she needs anything doing and vice-a-versa. I get her to complete the daily paperwork in my practice booklet and normally administer some 6pm medicines with her.

19:00 By now we should be preparing for handover to the night team, ensuring we are all clear on the jobs front and can give succinct information to the night team about our patients. Often you have a spare five minutes to talk to a patient or natter to a family.

20:00 End of the shift! YEY! An exhausting but pleasurable feeling. I don’t normally remember much after I leave as I’m so tired but I seem to make it home safe, ready to do it all again tomorrow…

Jamie, 2nd Year BSc, Children’s Nursing

For more information on Children’s Nursing, click here.