Telling my story is difficult, but if it helps one person reach out, it’s worth it, says Jennifer

Jennifer Howarth - Adult Nursing Student

Student nurse Jennifer Howarth talks to us, for International Nurses Day, about the challenges she's faced during her adult nursing course and the reasons for changing her career. 
 
She shares her response to a serious road traffic accident that occurred while commuting to her placement one morning. She also speaks about the personal difficulties that have affected her mental health and the support she received from the University. 
 
“On my way to my placement one morning, I stopped at a serious road traffic accident. I hadn’t undertaken an accident and emergency placement or had any experience of a major incident. But, I assisted, in this situation, by giving CPR and helping a young boy with his wound until the ambulance arrived with a tourniquet. All the training I had on CPR, and emergency situations, allowed me to act quickly. Once the ambulance came to assess and move the patient, I stayed with him and holding his hand, giving reassurance as he was calling out for his father. Sadly, the injuries were so serious his father lost his life. 
 
Before starting the course, I hadn’t cared for anyone in a care setting. So, I feel the training provided by the teaching staff and the sim centre at the university helps prepare you for what you could be faced with, out on placement. The use of scenarios can be daunting. However, they help in knowing how to care for patients in all settings. When dealing with situations like this, I’ve learnt to stay calm and always seek support. 

I’ve always been a caring person and helped looked after my gran when I was 20 years old, and she was palliative with lung cancer. This is where my admiration for nurses began. While caring for her, I’d began working for Lloyds TSB and had bought my own car so, following this dream seemed a farfetched idea. 

At 28, I became a mother to a beautiful little girl, Evie. However, at the age of three, there were concerns she had spina bifida and had to go through several MRI scans and tests. This was traumatic and a confusing time for me, as then, a single mother. However, the support, education and understanding I received from the nurses during this time was outstanding. They helped by not only putting my mind at ease but showed Evie great care. 
 
It was this experience that led to my decision to do an access course. This would allow me to progress to become an adult nurse. Although my experience had been in paediatrics, my dream had always been to work in Velindre Cancer Care as an adult nurse. 
 
Looking after your mental health during your nursing course is so important. It’s something I’ve personally suffered from this year. Telling my story is difficult, but if it helps one person reach out, it’s worth it. 

I struggled tremendously with my mental health through being in an extremely unhealthy relationship. With the pressures of theory work and placement, looking after my little girl and dealing with the struggles of this relationship, I could remember waking up exhausted, mentally, every day. I was unsure about how I was going to manage. 

The best advice I could give anyone dealing with mental health issues is to be open and honest. I would encourage people not to be scared to speak out and ask for help. Whether that be your friends, mentor on placement, course tutor or lectures. 

The support I received from my tutor, and particularly Mark Broom, Head of Pre-Registration, was second to none. They allowed me to be open and honest, offered advice on managing the course and provided great support. This helped me through this third year. The staff believed in me, something I wasn't experiencing at the time.”