Student profile
Abigail Best, BSc (Hons) Nursing Studies (Registered Nurse Mental Health Nursing)

Abigail Best

"The facilities are great at helping you get used to placement settings, especially the Clinical Simulation Suite. Here, actors are used to mimic scenarios we may experience in practice."

Why I chose Surrey

Growing up, I met several people who struggled with their mental health, and it gave me my first insight into the field. I really enjoyed being able to help them and learn more about their experiences. People have always told me that I’m a kind and empathetic person, so I wanted to translate this into a profession, which is when I found the mental health nursing course at Surrey.

When I visited, the nursing staff were supportive and enthusiastic. I also liked that previous students were so open and honest and their experiences, and this is what sold me.

My course

One of my favourite things about my course is the community we have among the students and lecturers. We can openly talk about our experiences in a non-judgemental space. I’ve had times where I have struggled with traumatic days at placement and the teaching staff have checked in on me and helped me to sort any issues.

The facilities are great at helping you get used to placement settings, especially the Clinical Simulation Suite. Here, actors are used to mimic scenarios we may experience in practice. Although these can be challenging, I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learnt to crisis scenarios.

My clinical placements

I’m currently placed within the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for my clinical placements. So far, I’ve worked on an inpatient mental health ward, for psychiatric liaison, and out in the local area with the Community Mental Health Recovery Services (CMHRS) and the Home Treatment Team, to deliver care to adults aged 18 to 65 years suffering from a mental health crisis.

I’ve been carrying out initial mental health assessments and reviews on young people, adults and older adults. I’ve also been helping to coordinate and deliver care for service users in crisis and deliver therapeutic interventions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and stabilisation skills.

I’ve had the opportunity to take part in risk planning and medication management, helping to deliver injections and review medication, alongside consultants. It’s been incredible working through the entire care pathway, from GP to inpatient admission, alongside a range of professionals including occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers and many more.

I’ve also arranged additional placement days in alcohol liaison, approved mental health professional (AMHP) services, child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), electric convulsive therapy, paediatric liaison and section 136 (of the Mental Health Act) suites.

"Supporting service users to rebuild their lives and change patterns of acute hospital stays, has given me so much hope and reaffirmed my belief that recovery is at the heart of what we do."

My most memorable moment

Throughout my placements, I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many amazing clinicians and clients. One of my most memorable interactions so far has been with a patient I met when I was working on an acute ward, who I’m following up as part of the CMHRS. I’ve formed a good therapeutic relationship with them and have visited them regularly to help them reflect on the CBT skills I’ve shared. I’ve also been able to support them in accessing other services, including dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), as well as sorting out stable accommodation.

They’ve had bad experiences of mental health services previously but have been extremely grateful towards me and my mentor for making them feel like they matter. Their perseverance and determination, despite all the barriers thrown their way, as well as my ability to help keep them safe, really stuck with me and made me feel that this career is worth doing.  Another great outcome of this is that the service user wants to use their experiences to create mental healthcare change, with hopes to improve the system for others.

Supporting them to rebuild their life and change a pattern of acute hospital stays, has given me so much hope and reaffirmed my belief that recovery is at the heart of what we do.

My life at Surrey

I lived in university accommodation my first year and absolutely loved it. I lived with a mixture of nurses and other students, so I wasn’t faced with nursing all the time! Many of my housemates are now my best friends.

I spend a lot of my time at Surrey Sports Park and have gotten involved with a lot of societies, including lacrosse, dodgeball, first aid and welfare watch.

My career and development

Since being at Surrey, I’ve learnt so much about myself and my potential as both a nurse and a person. After qualifying, I’m sure what I want to specialise in. I enjoy community therapeutic interventions and would love to complete some additional study in DBT, but I also really enjoy assessing people in crisis.

Whatever I choose, I want to help change mental health services for the better. Let’s see what happens!

My advice

Be proactive and shadow as many people and teams as you can. Try and spend time with a range of professionals across different specialities.

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help or take some time to focus on yourself as this course can be challenging, and your mental health comes first.

Find out more about our mental health nursing course

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