Month: February 2016

Five things I wish I’d known before starting my degree

….(and some tips for you)

1. Make time for the academic side
I write this as I sit over a pile literature I need to start devouring for two different essays. You need to learn about so many different aspects of healthcare, policy and science. The degree requires you to know so much and to be able to apply your knowledge well. Your understanding will constantly be tested by your lecturers, placement mentors, peers and even yourself.

2. Placement is much more hands on that I ever thought
You are expected to get involved in much more than just observing. The line between a qualified nurse and a student nurse is not as thick as you probably imagined. However, at the same time, remember the importance of observation and never do anything unless you have been shown how to do it.

3. You need to be able to manage your time well!
Like really. You’ll be juggling placements, university, working and trying to maintain a social life. It’s hard but good time management is key! I am able to work, go to placement, do my essays, prepare for exams and still make time for my friends. It’s all about planning in advance and being realistic about what you can and can’t do and the time space that you can do it in.

4. Living in London is quite expensive
It’s easy to underestimate the costs of living in London – but don’t make that mistake. It’s expensive but oh so worth it! You learn to shop at the cheapest places, make the most out of what you have, walk as much as possible and get an 18+ student oyster card to get 30% off! Manage your money well and, if all fails, your overdraft may just become your best friend.

5. Becoming a nurse will be the best thing you’ll ever do!
I wish somebody had warned me how much I would love this – but I’m glad I got to experience this myself. It has been a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t too sure how much I would love being a student nurse but it is the best thing I have ever done in my life. Being able to care and look after people and change lives daily is so much more amazing than I could have ever imagined.

Deborah, 2nd Year BSc Mental Health Nursing

For more information on Mental Health Nursing, click here.


My desk with all my current academic books!

The best part of my degree

Towards the end of the second year in the midwifery program we started a fantastic module called the continuity project. This enabled us to follow two to five women throughout their pregnancy – also known as caseloading midwifery.

After gaining consent at their very first appointment known as their ‘booking’, we would attend all their antenatal clinics, ultrasound scans, any appointments with an obstetrician or gynaecologist, and also assist with parenting classes.

From 37 weeks of pregnancy onwards we are on call for their delivery. If all goes to plan, the patient contacts us herself to let us know she is in labour and we attend the birth – that’s if we can make it there in time! Afterwards we provide mother and baby with postnatal care both within the hospital and out in the community. Throughout the whole project, we are supervised by our assigned ‘responsible midwife’. He or she supports us throughout this module and is also a point of contact for our patients if needed.

It was an incredible journey and was personally my favourite aspect of the degree program. Being able to see a woman progress throughout her pregnancy re-emphasised to me the importance of continuity within the NHS. Mothers often really appreciate a familiar face and the company of someone that they know and trust! Some students create amazing relationships with their patients – it is truly a rewarding experience.

Hayley, 3rd Year, Midwifery Student

For more information on Midwifery, click here.

Rewards of Being A Nurse

Being a mental health nurse is both a challenging and rewarding role. The challenges are not only in terms of the emotional impact that caring for patients can have, but also the financial and political constraints that we often have to operate under while working in the NHS.

Despite numerous awareness and anti-stigma campaigns, the stigma of mental illness continues to permeate throughout society, albeit in many cases unintentionally. Thus, when an individual confides in you and ‘lets you in’ to their life, their suffering, their illness, it is a great privilege that should be treated with care and respect.

From admission to discharge, you support and follow the patient in their recovery journey while being able to contribute towards a positive outcome – which is a great feeling. Equally, liaising with family members is also a privilege, particularly when providing support and reassurance to them during a very difficult time.

Overall, being a mental health nurse offers great opportunities to support and treat individuals suffering from often complex mental health problems. It gives you a unique insight into other people’s lives, struggles and human experiences.

In addition, being a mental health nurse offers you wide and varied career opportunities. Therefore, if you are an ambitious, compassionate and caring individual, a career in mental health nursing could be for you.

Lewis, 1st Year PGDip Mental Health Nursing

For more information on Mental Health Nursing, click here.

For more information on PGDip Mental Health Nursing, click here.

How to Have a Social Life on a Budget: Student Nurse Edition

Having a social life while having a student income and being a student nurse seems impossible, I know, but it is all about balance, budgeting and cheap activities. Here are some of my top tips to save you money for those big nights out or quiet nights in:

  • Give yourself a budget. Having a weekly or daily budget to stick to can be hard, but getting that cash out and limiting yourself will help you save money. So instead of buying those four coffees, you can have more money to spend on other things, such as a much needed glass of wine after that 12.5-hour shift. King’s has a great financial forecaster on their website to help work out your expenditures, which has been great for keeping me out of my overdraft.
  • Try to carry cash. I know tapping your contactless all day long makes you feel like because you can’t see it, you aren’t really spending money. Stop. Put away the Debit Card and get to the ATM. Paying with cash gives you a lot more perspective on how much you are spending.
  • Create a food shopping list. Instead of going crazy in Sainsbury’s and buying a week’s worth of food shopping for £50, make a list of what you need. Maybe on the odd occasion you can treat yourself to those M&S biscuits, but going in with a plan will help you save more money in the long run.
  • Meal prep. Trust me, your freezer is going to be your best friend. Placements can be tiring and sometimes you just want to grab that oven pizza and big bag of chocolate on your way home. Instead, prepare your meals for the week. This is going to save you a lot of time, effort and especially money. Make sure to change it up a bit though, eating chicken, rice and Piri-Piri sauce can get a bit boring after a week or two.

Getting out of bed after two long days on placement can be the hardest thing in your life. But trust me, get up, get a shower and get out of the house. Being a student nurse can be isolating at times, but pushing through and being social will really lift your mood and spirit. Here are some suggestions to get you out of bed and not spending crazy amounts of money.

  • I know it sounds simple, but get out and explore London. Channel your inner tourist, you’ll be amazed at what you can find and how cheap things are. Whether it’s the museums, the Southbank, parks or the holiday markets, they always end up being a lot of fun and pretty cheap as well. (Bonus tip: Look out for the Carnaby Christmas Party, they give out free drink and it’s a great night out with friends.)
  • You are a student, use this to your advantage. Always ask if places take student discount, you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save in restaurants or on activities. The London Eye, The Shard and the London Dungeon all take student discount, making fun activities even cheaper to do. Also, use your newly found NHS card as well. A cheeky Nandos is great, but you can make it even cheekier with 20% NHS discount.
  • Time Out London. Follow them on twitter, Facebook or Instagram. They post about cheap ways to get out and have fun in London, such as free gigs or rooftop cinemas. This once led me to unlimited free pancakes in Pimlico one morning, let’s just say, maybe one of the best days of my life.


Masked Ball in Fresher’s Week


Amazing and free day out celebrating Pride 2015 in Piccadilly Circus


Carnaby Christmas Party


Inside Winter Wonderland

It’s amazing where your nursing degree can take you

Emma Gilbert graduated from King’s College with a PG Dip in Mental Health Nursing in 2012 and an MSc in Mental Health Nursing in 2015. Emma tells us what she’s been up to since she graduated.

My first degree was a BA in Social Anthropology, and I can trace back my interest in mental health and social behaviour from then. My part time job during my studies was helping to look after a woman with schizophrenia, who lived at home with support from carers.

After graduating, I pursued a career within television, film and radio. I found myself particularly drawn to working on factual documentaries that had a social component. I worked as a researcher in production and then as an assistant producer in development – writing treatment ideas and pitches, an aspect of work I still love. I then moved on to radio, working for Radio 4 on a variety of news programmes and freelancing as a producer for LBC radio.

So I’d already had quite a varied career when, shortly before my 27th birthday, I decided to train as a mental health nurse. My then colleagues were very surprised by my career change, but I knew that I wanted to develop a pragmatic and practical set of skills that I’d be able to shape and make my own.

I have never regretted the decision to become a nurse, and have found that my studies and training at King’s have opened up such a wide range of opportunities for me. As an anthropologist by discipline, transcultural psychiatry has always been a special interest of mine so as soon as I could find funded work I headed overseas to gain some more experience. I spent eight weeks in St Vincent’s working in medical clinics, before heading to Malawi to manage a team of volunteers working on various health projects, including a life skills course running in the local prison.

Following my time in Malawi, I knew I wanted to pursue more global work, so I began a Diploma in Tropical Nursing at Liverpool University. I then went on to study for a Masters in Nursing at King’s, which I passed with Merit.

My Master’s degree helped me to secure a position at the Tropical Health Education Trust, working in service development for the children’s ward here at Butabika, the only dedicated psychiatric hospital in Kampala. I also help to facilitate the Advanced Diploma in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry here, which is taught to health workers all over the country and is the first course of its kind in the region.

More recently, I have set up a project, backed by the LINK I work for, to address one of the major crises on the ward – abandonment and resettlement of children with mental illness. You can find out further information about the project on the Crowdfunder website. I’ve also been involved in a piece about child mental health for the BBC’s World Service HealthCheck programme, and I am starting to make ‘voices from the field’ podcasts for the Mental Health Innovation Network. I am working alongside Medical Aid Films to produce an educational film about Epilepsy, still considered a mental illness in Uganda.

Since graduating from King’s I’ve had the opportunity to work in such a wide variety of environments, each bringing new challenges and experiences. The best aspect to my work is that the potential for continued learning and development, both personally and professionally is boundless. I believe nursing is a skill that is universally understood, and in this way, if you want to, you are able to create opportunities for yourself that go above and beyond a conventional career path. Oh, and of course that the main component is actually spending time with people and hearing their stories. Nothing really gets better than that.

Emma is an alumna of King’s College London

For more information on Mental Health Nursing, click here.

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Living at home while studying

After living away from my parents for four years, I was reluctant to move home for the duration of the nursing course.

I had initial reservations such as needing my own space and giving my parents theirs but it has turned out to be one of the best parts of studying in London for me. This is because studying nursing is not like other courses. The hours are very full on, leaving you with little time to play with while you are on placement. The more help and support you have while you study, the better!

There is nothing like coming home from a long day of placement to food in the fridge and little things like knowing that you don’t have to stop for milk of other essentials on the way home. Another reason is that it will most likely be the last opportunity that I will live with my parents – and it has been nice to spend some quality time with them after a few years living away.

Before I moved to London I was worried about the commute to university and even more so to my placement because of the wide range of Trusts linked with King’s College.
Despite having a 45 to 60 minute commute to get into Central London, I have really adapted to travelling and realised that the nature of the big city means it takes a while to get anywhere.

Be prepared to spend money on transport as commuting in London is expensive. I think if you have the opportunity to save money on accommodation then definitely do it as it will give you extra pocket money to explore London when you have time off.

Geraldine, 1st Year PG Dip Adult Nursing

For more information, click here.

Outside to Inside – reflections of a prison nurse

I started my career in Offender Healthcare long before even contemplating nurse training. For 17 years, I was a Healthcare Assistant in a multitude of settings which included general medical, surgical, psychiatric and, eventually, offender health. I joined the workforce at HMP Wadsworth in 2006 as the prison’s first ever Substance Misuse Healthcare Support Worker and remained in this post until I was extremely fortunate to have been seconded by St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust to undertake my Nurse training in 2012. I was all the more fortunate be accepted to study at King’s College London.

My time at King’s enabled me to reaffirm and build upon existing knowledge and skills, while also learning and developing those skills required for practising once qualified. Training was definitely an eye opener and helped me to fully appreciate and understand exactly what it takes to become a registered nurse. Upon reflection, although I always had great respect for the profession, I did not have a full appreciation of how far nursing has advanced; what it takes now to achieve a degree in nursing and also what is required to maintain that registration and develop it once qualified. The modules that were incorporated into the programme took into account the requirements of being a registered nurse of today and that care is evidence based and delivered at a holistic level.

Although not an expectation of St George’s, it was always my intention to return to HMP Wandsworth as a qualified nurse. I enjoyed the challenges and unpredictability that came with working in such a setting where no two days were ever the same. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to work with one of society’s most underrepresented and often stigmatised patient groups.

I was aware that returning as a qualified nurse was likely to bring fresh challenges in a professional role in which I was now fully accountable and working alongside colleagues who once remembered me as a Healthcare Support Worker. I was often reminded of a common belief that prison nursing can deskill you as a practitioner. In some ways this could well be true as some of the skills you would apply in a ward setting, for example, would not necessarily be used in the prison setting. However, to nurse within the prison setting requires essential skills and qualities that frequently require fine tuning and adaptation.

These include:

  • Methodical and rapid assessment in both clinical and emergency settings recognition of who may be considered vulnerable
  • Excellent communication skills that are adaptable to the individual and environment
  • Empathy and a non judgemental approach to all whom are under your care
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Flexibility and adaptability.

The list is non exhaustive, but it would be fair to say that these are all skills and qualities that are also applied within the general setting outside of prison. However the challenges that come with working within the strict constraints of prison, due to security needs, require nursing staff to constantly adapt to the environment at any given time and reevaluate priorities to ensure care is still delivered.

The working day of a prison nurse is rarely predictable and the roles and tasks I would undertake could range from running nurse triage clinics to assisting the emergency nurse in the event of incidents that are relatively commonplace in prison such as cardiac arrest, deliberate self-harm or the adverse effects of psychoactive substances such as the legal high commonly known as ‘Spice’.

In addition, a key part of prison nursing is the health screening of new prisoners who come into our first night ‘Reception’ centre. They are then seen again in the ‘Second Day Screening’ clinic the following morning. These clinics are specific to the identification of any prisoners who are at risk or currently suffering from chronic physical or mental health problems. Such clinics are also crucial in identifying vulnerable groups such as those with substance misuse issues, learning difficulties, former veterans and younger prisoners or first timers. The needs of each of these groups are individual and therefore effective communication through appropriate referral to relevant departments and agencies ensures that the safety of the individual is maintained. The importance of getting it right over the first two days cannot be underestimated and time is of the essence. There are tight time limitations on these clinics, particularly in Reception where prisoners need to be processed swiftly to ensure they are located on the wings without delay. Constant communication with the discipline staff is essential to ensure that no prisoner gets missed and, subsequently, lost in the prison system with potential health problems that may require attention.

The prison also has a six-bedded hospital unit known as the Jones Unit. This houses those who may be too sick to remain on prison wing locations, or who have returned from an outside hospital and require a period of observation and stabilisation before returning to the wing. During shifts spent on the unit I have managed a full patient caseload supported by one healthcare assistant. I have been responsible for ensuring individual care needs are met, as identified in their care plans. During my last shift on Jones I had to send two patients out to hospital due to reported deteriorations in their Early Warning Scores (EWS) and general health state. This meant liaising with the duty GP and duty prison Governors to ensure that they were transferred out to hospital without delay. In the interim, their health was maintained through regular observations and, for one, administering supplementary oxygen after a rapid drop in his saturation levels.

This is just a brief overview of what tasks and duties can be typically expected of a prison nurse over any working day. It is variable and rarely dull as, wherever you are based in the prison on any given day, there is always something to do or learn. A thick skin and strong stomach are essentials for such a post, as is life experience and being an excellent multi-tasker. If this is you, I would strongly recommend this as a career choice. The job as a prison nurse can be extremely challenging and, at times, frustrating but the small achievements made along the way make it a rewarding vocation.

Christine is an alumna of King’s College London

For more information on Adult Nursing, click here.


The Rewards of Being a Nurse

I believe that nursing as a career is a rewarding experience because you are caring for people from all backgrounds alongside colleagues who are hard-working, like-minded and supportive.

As a nurse I care passionately about improving people’s lives. Nursing is a career for people who enjoy working within a multi-disciplinary team. Nursing can be a career for life, allowing flexible working hours, which will suit people with family responsibilities.

There is also good job stability as the need for nurses is always high. The ability to develop a career within a variety of settings allows for good personal development.

Nursing gives you a qualification that provides you with the ability to work wherever you like and the opportunity to travel to other cities, or countries, with a set of valuable universal skills.

Nursing allows you to experience areas where healthcare provision is very different to ours and you can appreciate what we have access to here. You can shape your career as you wish, as there are so many branches and specialisms of nursing to work within. You will gain a lot of insight from the people you care for, their experiences and other members of the healthcare team.

Facing new challenges is exciting. There are always developments in healthcare to which you need to adapt. Continuing training is available throughout your career to enable you to feel competent.

It is fulfilling working within a meaningful profession where you can make a difference to someone’s experience. The skills you learn help you to feel more prepared to handle emergencies at home with family and friends. Most of all it’s the people you care for that make the job worthwhile as you learn so much from them – they are the people that make you a nurse.

Rachel, 2nd Year PG Dip Children’s Nursing

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

Day In The Life of a Student Midwife – Birthing Centre Placement

05.20 – My alarm goes off, and it’s still pitch black outside. I shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, drink a huge coffee, and check through my bag to make sure I have all I need for my day working at the birthing centre. I leave the house for the station, walking through central London at sunrise.

07.00 – Once I arrive at the hospital I change into my scrubs and find my mentor; I’m ready to start my 12.5 hour shift. We attend handover together, which is where midwives ending one shift meet with the midwives taking over the unit for the next shift, and we discuss all the patients within the unit in detail. Our patients here are either in labour or have just recently have delivered – so all details are very important to make sure they receive the best care possible from their new midwife.

07.30 – Handover is finished and my mentor and I are looking after a woman in labour. After introducing ourselves, we read through our patient’s notes and formulate a plan of care together. What has this woman’s pregnancy been like? Any medical or surgical history? What has happened in her labour so far? What is her birthing plan? All of these aspects will influence how we care for her and her unborn baby. We talk with her and her partner discussing what her wishes are and gaining consent for any procedure. Making sure the patient knows and understands what is happening is vital.

09.30 – Once we have performed any checks such as blood pressure, assessing the baby, or how far along she is in her labour if it is necessary, we make sure our patient knows we are here for her as little or as much as she wants. Creating this relationship of trust, empathy and security is hugely important – after all, she is putting her and her child’s life in my and my mentor’s hands.

10.00 – As this patient is in ‘active labour’ my mentor supervises me as I listen into the baby’s heart rate every 15 minutes to check the baby is coping well between the contractions. She asks the midwife if she can go into the birthing pool, mainly to use as a form of pain relief.

11.30 – Our patient has been in the birthing pool for a while and is showing signs that the baby may be coming soon. As a student, learning the subtle signs of the second stage of labour is something you pick up over time with practice. Maintaining a calm and reassuring environment enables everyone involved to feel relaxed – positivity and encouragement in labour is key.

12.00 – My mentor and I retrieve some medication for our patient. Helping women to cope with their pain is a huge part of midwifery, along with supporting their decisions. We look at the drug chart together and the midwife supervises me as I get the correct drug and dose. We go together to check the patient’s identification, whether she has any allergies and check it all against the drug chart once more. Accidentally giving the wrong drug, or the wrong dose or route can have very bad effects on the patient so I am always heavily supervised.

13.30 – After pushing for one hour in the birthing pool, our patient delivers a beautiful baby. This is always a highlight of being a student midwife – the pure joy and relief on the mother’s face always makes this job and the hard work so worthwhile. Within training we have to deliver a minimum of 40 natural births – now after this morning’s hard work I only have 18 left to go!

14.00 – After performing an initial newborn check and weighing the baby, my mentor fills in some paperwork while I support this new mother to breastfeed for the first time.

14.30 – Another midwife comes into relieve my mentor and me for our lunch break – one hour off of your feet is always highly appreciated. I personally also take this hour to eat as much as I can and to drink as many cups of tea as humanly possible.

15.30 – Once our break is over, we go back to our patient. After assisting her to wash, dress and to give her any necessary pain relief, we transfer her to the maternity ward. My mentor and I hand over care to the postnatal ward midwife who will be looking after her. I tell the new midwife all about the patient; her medical, social, obstetric and surgical histories and, of course, the details of her pregnancy, labour and delivery. It is vital not to miss out any information – my mentor listens closely to fill in any gaps I may have missed. We say goodbye to our patient, her partner and her baby. Seeing how happy and content they are as a new family always makes me realise how amazing, rewarding and exciting my career will always be.

17.30 – My mentor and I take a moment to go through my Midwifery Practice Document. This is how mentors assess students while on placement. We talk through a few of my labour and delivery skills and sign off one which I achieved today.

18.00 – For the last hour of the shift we take telephone calls from other women in labour – assessing them and occasionally inviting them into the hospital if we think they need a physical assessment. As the birthing centre is fairly quiet, we restock anything that is needed around the unit and generally make sure everything is spick and span – ready for any new patient that may walk through the door in labour.

19.00 – The end of my shift is here. Even though 12.5 hours at work seems a long time, it always goes extremely quickly. The midwives hand over the patients on the birthing unit to the night team. We also tell them about any women who are in early stages of labour at home, or who are making their way into hospital so the midwives don’t have any surprises.

19.30 – My mentor gives me permission to leave my shift and I start the hour’s journey home. I always like this time on the train to reflect on the day I’ve just had.

20.30 – I am finally home after what was another tiring but extremely rewarding day at the birthing centre. I quickly eat some dinner and get straight into bed in order to get as much sleep as I can – tomorrow I’ll be doing it all again!

Hayley, 3rd Year, Midwifery Student

For more information on Midwifery, click here.