The most precious thing you can give people is your time

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We talk to Kayley, a first year Mental Health nursing student, and a Dementia Friend.

Why did you choose mental health nursing?
During my Health and Social Care Management degree, I went on placement to an elderly mental health hospital and a substance misuse charity. I felt so passionate about the service users I met, I could not think of a better career to embark on than nursing. I believe that helping people with mental health problems is just as important and rewarding as helping people with a physical illness.

Mental health nursing will allow me to work in a variety of settings, which appeals to me as I thrive from challenges and having the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and skills. The profession also offers excellent career prospects.

What people say
Many people say I am 'brave' studying to become a mental health nurse. There seems to be a stigma that people with mental health problems are violent and aggressive, this is certainly not the case. This stigma motivates me even further to become a good mental health nurse.

There are so many misconceptions about mental health, one being that there is no 'cure'. There are so many treatments and services out there to help people with mental health problems; people can, and have, recovered from mental illness, going on to live positive, fulfilling lives. Unfortunately society will not talk about their mental health problems like they talk about their physical ones. The sooner we talk openly about mental health, the sooner people can get the support they need. After all, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem each year.

Favourite placement
My favourite placement so far has been within an elderly mental health hospital. Many of the patients had dementia, and the key thing I learned is that the most precious thing you can give these people is your time. Sitting down and having a conversation with the patients was therapeutic for me and them! Hearing their life stories was so interesting and they enjoyed having the opportunity to talk about them. A memorable experience I had on this placement was when a patient was being quite vocal and seemed distressed. After taking the time to talk with this lady and bring her a cup of tea she seemed less anxious and thanked me for being 'so kind'. Comments like that make the early mornings and long shifts worthwhile.

Whilst on this placement I was involved in building relationships with the patients and their families, making assessments, attending meetings, administering medication, and being involved in doctors rounds. No day was ever the same!

Favourite lesson
We had an incredible lecture from a younger person living with dementia. This inspirational lady told us her story and it was amazing to hear how positive she was. It was very useful to hear firsthand how a person living with dementia would like to be treated whilst in our care. Following this session I became a Dementia Friend, which is an initiative aiming to change people's perceptions of dementia.

Advice to people considering this course
University of South Wales is a fantastic university with excellent support and excellent facilities. I would advise anyone considering the mental health nursing course to come along to an Open Day where you can meet the tutors and see the facilities for yourself. Also, if you are unsure about whether mental health nursing is for you, I would recommend going on a short placement within a mental health setting to see if it is something you can imagine yourself doing. This would look good on your personal statement too!