"I was inspired to train as a mental health nurse after joining the British Army. I did two tours of Afghanistan and during these, I became aware of a transfer scheme to retrain as a nurse and I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to continue looking after soldiers."
I was inspired to train as a mental health nurse after joining the British Army as an Administration Officer in 2007, following the completion of my business administration degree at the University of Plymouth. I did two tours of Afghanistan and during these, I became aware of a transfer scheme within the Army to retrain as a nurse and I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to continue looking after soldiers. I qualified as an adult nurse from the University of Leeds in 2016 but felt that I could make even more of a difference to soldiers’ lives by addressing their mental health concerns. I was fortunate to have the Army’s support to join Surrey’s mental health nursing course and haven’t looked back since.
I chose Surrey because the location is ideal for me to commute to as an adult learner, and the course gives me the training I need to specialise in mental health. I also had the opportunity to meet staff at my interview day and if I wasn’t sold before, I was after!
The course is extremely interesting and my lecturers are not only knowledgeable but also supportive – they’ve given me additional help to keep my studies on track. Their flexibility and adaptability to support me and my peers have been exceptional.
The course has a combination of in-person and online learning. As an adult learner, I’ve found the online resources easy to use and the virtual tutorials are a great way to keep in touch with lecturers remotely. When on campus, I’ve really enjoyed using the facilities in the Kate Granger Building, including practising clinical skills in the Clinical Simulation Centre.
My clinical placements
My placements have been with the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, in the Community Mental Health Recovery Service: Surrey Heath and the Community Mental Health team for Older People: North East Hampshire.
Throughout my placements, I’ve been shadowing healthcare staff, carrying out medical assessments, and collating historical information for child safeguarding cases. I’ve also been documenting consultations, making referrals, carrying out audits and in general, making myself as useful as possible.
"I treated an ex-serviceman who had post-traumatic stress disorder. His narrative has stayed with me and I remember him telling me how good I will be when I qualify – this moment cemented that this is exactly what I should be doing."
One of the most memorable moments has been treating an ex-serviceman who had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other co-occurring mental health issues. Since leaving the military, he’d ostracised himself and only accessed public services. Knowing about my background in the Army, he asked to meet me, and we exchanged stories. His narrative has stayed with me and I remember him telling me how good I will be when I qualify – this moment cemented that this is exactly what I should be doing.
My life at Surrey
During my free time, I play for the University of Surrey Netball Club, in the first team, which I love. I’m very lucky to be coached by Mikki Austin, Director and Player of Surrey Storm (Superleague Netball Team) and play alongside other Surrey Storm players like Emily Gulvin.
My career and development
After I qualify, I’m planning on working as a military mental health nurse. Alongside this, I’m going to continue to do ad hoc bank work at a local hospice, to maintain my adult nursing registration.
Ask as many questions as you can about pharmacology and medications – healthcare workers, including nurses, are normally happy to answer these. I’d also recommend reading the British National Formulary (BNF), your guide to pharmaceuticals and prescribing these. Having knowledge of these areas will be beneficial for your application and will help get you up to speed before starting the course, especially if you aren’t from a medical background.