Before I started this degree people would frequently ask what I wanted to specialise in as I embarked on my career in mental healthcare. ‘Mental Health nursing’ was always my answer, smiling smugly as I answered thinking I was being as specific and precise as I ever would be able to. Boy, was I wrong.
My first day on a rehabilitation ward was a shock for me. I expected rehab to be a place of addictions, but here I was on a ward of people suffering from schizophrenia! ‘Rehab exists for people with schizophrenia?’ will go down in history as one of the silliest questions I have ever asked. It was here that I realised how my perception of mental health was incorrect. There were people who could potentially live in the community for the rest of their lives, stable and living with their illness! It was a miracle, I left the ward feeling hopeful. I didn’t know a service or a world like this existed.
I then had the opportunity to be with a deaf adult community mental health team. It was only one of the few scattered around the country, a service that is truly valuable. I had never faced language barriers before. I was confused and felt powerless at my inability to communicate with staff members, students and patients. Frankly, I felt left out. One day I approached my mentor and a deaf member of staff about my feelings. The deaf member of staff said that is how he felt in the outside world, outside of these walls that protect him – everyday. I was too busy caught up in my own emotions to realise that this is the reality many people have to live every single day and I was only living it for five weeks. It was here that I learnt the importance of inclusion and how isolation truly feels.
Next, I was placed with the elderly. Caring for mothers, fathers and grandparents who had done their fair share for the world. Sitting with them and listening to their stories, made me wonder what story I would tell when I was as old and wise as them. For the first time in my life, I was faced with a patient suffering from Dementia. Here was the ‘horrid’ disease I had heard about for so long, but never witnessed. It tore me to pieces, more than I could have ever imagined and this was where I was able to put to practice my skills of compassion to the test. I would spend hours caring for people who would say ‘who are you’ at the end of the day. However, that never stopped me. I won’t deny that it hurt me, but I knew that they needed me and that their need for me to care for them was much more important that my need for them to remember what I did for them.
Thrown into the dynamic environment of a home treatment team I found my perfect setting. I loved every moment of assessing patients, providing care for patients in a crisis and preventing individuals from admission into hospital. It was here that I felt my skills were most applicable. I have always loved being able to think on my feet, I have always been a person who deals with unexpected situations well and solves them quickly. This was the environment I felt was most suited to me and I loved every single minute. I didn’t want to leave. My heart melted, as I realised I was slowly becoming the nurse I knew I could be and had always wanted to be. The one I had always aimed to be.
So I have six more placements to do and I can’t tell you how excited I am. If you asked me what area I wanted to specialise in right now, I couldn’t tell you, but come back to me in a year and a half and I might just know.
Deborah, 2nd Year BSc Mental Health Nursing