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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