No regrets – leaving Northern Ireland to study in London

I moved to London from Northern Ireland in September 2013 to study mental health nursing at King’s and I haven’t looked back since making that decision.

Naturally, I miss Ireland and my family, but due to cheap flights, we can usually visit every other month (and we talk/text almost every day). As everyone in first year in your halls of residence has left home, your flat mates become your second family.

In first year I lived in Julian Markham House (JMH), a King’s residence and I would really recommend it. I lived with medics and humanity students, and it was a nice change to come home and be able to take a break from talking about nursing all day. JMH is located in the Elephant and Castle district, and is a maximum 20 minute walk from all of the King’s campuses. Due to this, in both second and third year I have chosen to remain in the same area, renting privately owned flats. Finding these flats was fairly straight forward, and was a very quick process which we began in June and was completed within a week. This allows you to leave it until the last minute to decide where to live and who to live with, which in other universities you often need to have arranged by January.

I do think that studying in London has been a brilliant decision for me, not only for the wide range of placements that are available to me as a mental health nursing student, but also on what is available to me in my spare time. I have been able to travel on the Eurostar to Paris, fly to the Netherlands and I’ve also visited a lot of my school friends at other universities in the UK, all quite cheaply because of the plentiful London transport links and the great student/youth travel fares. Being a student in London has many benefits: cheaper cinema tickets, going to concerts and local festivals, many restaurants give student discount, as do a lot of the shops.

Personally, I love the change from Northern Ireland to the fast paced streets of London. However, if you are concerned that it may be a bit too hectic, don’t worry, there are many areas in London which can prove to be a little escape from Central London. Some of the lovely places which I like to visit and can really recommend are Greenwich, Windsor and Hampstead Heath, but there are many more.

I do not regret my decision to study in London, and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to others.

Sarah, 2nd Year BSc Mental Health Nursing

For more information on Mental Health Nursing, click here.

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Mental Health Nursing Placements

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

For more information on Mental Health Nursing, click here.

To read Deborah’s “Five things I wish I’d known before starting my degree”, click here.

Life in London

When I started at King’s College London at the age of eighteen, I moved from a small town in Sussex to London, the capital city. I spent the first year of my degree living in university accommodation at Great Dover Street Apartments – a huge building of over 700 students!

I shared a flat with six other students, all of different backgrounds and all studying various courses. Living in halls was genuinely the best year of my life; even if I did miss out on some of the socialising and partying university brings due to working shifts at the hospital as a student midwife, I still had a fantastic year. Situated a ten minute walk from London Bridge, we were so close to everything we needed whether that was Guy’s campus, the library, the tube, loads of shops and (importantly) lots of places to meet up with friends.

At King’s there are hundreds of organisations, societies and sports clubs to choose from if you want to get involved in student life. I joined KCL Lions, the universities competitive cheerleading squad. I have been lucky enough to compete with them at a national level for three years now! The squad have become my second family and I even live with some of my team mates now I am in my third year – I highly recommend joining a sports club or a society, it was the truly the best decision I made!

Training in the capital city has meant I have had a one of a kind experience. You never run out of things to do or places to explore – there is always something exciting to see. The hospital placements are literally world class, and both the academic staff and mentors at hospitals are hugely supportive. I know I may be biased, but accepting my offer to King’s College London was the best decision of my life so far and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Hayley, 3rd Year, Midwifery Student

For more information on Midwifery, click here.

To read more about Hayley’s experiences:

Day in the Life of a Student Midwife             The Best Part of my Degree

 

Managing your money

Managing money on a student budget can be tricky, find out what help is available to you if you are thinking of coming to King’s

Who are Student Advice and how can they help me?

The Student Advice Service provides information, advice and guidance to both prospective and current students at King’s College London. The team is made up of Specialist Advisors who can advise you on a range of issues including money, housing, immigration and welfare.

I am a Student Money Advisor and I can help with your questions regarding money matters such as funding, budgeting and how to best manage your money whilst at university.

How can you access this advice and support?

You can come along to one of our Drop-ins and speak to an Advisor, no appointment needed! These are weekly & across all campuses. Take a look at our Drop-in schedule: click here.

Alternatively, you can complete an Online Enquiry Form: click here.

A member of the Advice team will then assist you with your enquiry based on your preferences. We offer appointments face to face, over the phone and even via Skype!

If you have a money related enquiry you can email money@kcl.ac.uk and I will be happy to answer any money questions you might have.

What advice resources are available?

We have information on our web pages, click here, and a number of advice guides that can be downloaded. These vary from advice on banking, Council Tax and even how to do your laundry!

We also share relevant articles, information and money saving tips on our Facebook page and Twitter account. Like and follow us now!

Our dedicated Money Mentors are a team of students that have been trained to help give you support with any money worries you might have whilst you are here. They will be out and about on our money campaigns throughout the year. Money Mentors and Nursing students Sharron and Samantha will tell us what it’s like to assist their fellow students with their money saving knowledge…blog post coming soon!

What is the most important piece of advice you can give?

I always say that budgeting is essential! A budget allows you to have some control over what you spend, plan for the future, keep a check on your income and outgoings and save a few pennies every month. Does maths make your head hurt? No fear, we have a number of resources that are here to help you with your budgeting. Start by watching the short video ‘How to make a budget’: click here.

King’s have partnered up with blackbullion.com to give students access to essential online budgeting tools and financial tutorials. Use your King’s email address to register for free now!

Take a look at The Money Charity’s ‘Student Moneymanual’ which is an excellent resource packed full of money facts and information – definitely worth a read over a cup of tea: click here.

I also find that some Nursing students are not aware that if they are living in a King’s residency, then they can request to pay their accommodation fees monthly rather than termly. If you would like to explore this as an option, contact the Credit Control department directly: click here.

It also worth looking at the Funding pages of the King’s website as there are Nursing specific Hardship Funds like the Perseverance Trust Hardship Bursary 2015 for those struggling with living costs whilst on course.

 King’s College London – Fees and Funding

Perseverance Trust Hardship Bursary

And finally, I am a big fan of car boot sales. They are brilliant for finding bargains such as ornaments for your room, but also great for useful things like kitchen equipment and stationary: TimeOut Car Boot Sales List.

Rachel Glover, Student Advice

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My first nursing placement

Having worked as healthcare assistant for almost three years prior to starting the nursing course, I had some preconceptions about what my first placement would be like.

This was an advantage and a disadvantage to me as one of my biggest worries was that I would fall back into the role of a healthcare assistant (HCA) on placement which would prevent me from learning as much as I could as a student nurse.

I expressed these worries to my mentor who encouraged me to understand my new role on the ward as a student nurse. An advantage to my experience was having a shorter adjustment period to get used to working in a hospital, which enabled me to get started on developing my skills. One way I was able to do this was by spending time, and sometimes a whole day, with members of the multidisciplinary team. I was able to learn about the role of Physiotherapists, Clinical Nurse Specialists, the Charge Nurse and Phlebotomists. This was very useful as by understanding the role of other members of the team I found it was easier to understand my own role.

It is worth saying that experiences will differ greatly from ward to ward for each individual. I feel as though one placement cannot be representative of your nursing career and learning experience which is why it is so great that we have a multitude of placements.

There will be some aspects that you enjoy and others that you don’t. I had to remind myself that it was ok to not enjoy 100% of the placement and that nursing is a challenging career. The thing that helped me the most throughout my placement was the support of my very dedicated mentor and liaising with my friends on the course who all have ups and downs themselves! Even at the end of such a short (5 week) placement I did feel sad to be leaving the team who had made me feel so welcome.

Geraldine, 1st Year, PG Dip Adult Nursing

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

To read more about Geraldine’s experience’s, click here.

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.

Books

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.

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Masked Ball in Fresher’s Week

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Amazing and free day out celebrating Pride 2015 in Piccadilly Circus

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Carnaby Christmas Party

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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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