London

My journey at King’s and a career in mental health nursing

I grew up in a country where there is a lot of myth and stigma surrounding mental illness. I quickly became interested in understanding the facts, the ways to deliver care and how to communicate with people with mental health conditions. As nursing was frowned upon when I initially suggested training as a nurse at age 16, I actually ended up studying accountancy (HND) after secondary school.

But luckily, in 2004, I had the opportunity to come to the UK. Unfortunately, I was unable to study mental health nursing at university after my Access to Nursing course, because of a restriction on foreign students.  I remained focused on my desire to become a nurse by studying for NVQ level 3 and 4 in Health and Social Care, Beauty Therapy, BSc Hon. Health and Social Care and Masters in Psychology and worked with the mental health Charity (MIND) for 7 years.

In 2014, I became eligible for the Nursing program because my immigration status changed!

I was very attracted to the course at King’s because of its reputation.  I was ecstatic when I got offered a place and have thoroughly enjoyed studying here. I am particularly impressed with King’s high standard of education, which encourages a high level of interaction between staff and students, and offers a good balance between clinical placements and classroom learning.  I feel that the high reputation of King’s students in clinical settings is second to none.

Six months for the completion of my course, I was offered a position as a staff nurse at a Medium Secure unit in the Midlands, and there have been other offers since then.  I am a bit overwhelmed by the vast opportunities training as a nurse at King’s has offered me.  My goal is to get involved in strategic mental health care management in the near future.

Overall, I am very proud that I have been able to achieve my childhood dream of becoming a nurse and what better way of seeing this dream come true than through the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery at King’s College London.

Aluya, PGDip Mental Health Nursing

For more information on Mental Health Nursing, click here.

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

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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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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

 

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.

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

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.

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.

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’