The importance of mental health as a student nurse

The discussion around mental health has certainly got louder in recent years and rightly so when you consider that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. This week, that discussion continued with Suicide Prevention Day occurring on Thursday 10th September. With that in mind, Mental Health Nursing student, Jessica Manning, discusses how important mental health is for everyone, but particularly students nurses…

As wonderful as healthcare professionals and students are, we are not superheroes. We get stressed, have bad days, feel tired and have mental health issues like everyone else. While we spend so many hours and days of our lives looking after others, we also need to look after ourselves and our fellow students in order to do our jobs properly.

As a mental health student nurse I understand the importance of a good diet, exercise routines, caffeine intake, stress reduction and healthy coping mechanisms for the individuals I come across. But sometimes I need a little reminder myself to follow these rules so I thought I’d give some tips that can be applied to all healthcare students so we take care of ourselves sufficiently.

Time management:

This is a big issue for myself and sometimes it can seem like all of my work is suddenly on top of me with exams, essays and placement all at the same time. Everyone works in different ways but it’s probably a good idea to make a plan of what work you have to do and designate specific days or hours to various pieces of work. Split it into easy chunks and organise it so future you will be grateful to have a guide to go off.

Rest time:

Now then, this does include getting enough sleep. Six to eight hours of sleep is recommended so try not to stay up until 2am cramming in that last minute revision as it won’t actually help you. It has been proven that a sleep deprived person is mentally and physically unprepared for an exam.

Also make sure to have breaks in your revision or days off to spend time with friends or play a video game or watch a film. This helps to reduce stress and make you feel refreshed when you do return to placement or an essay. Don’t expect yourself to do work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Reflection and extra support:

This a key part of clinical practice and will also help you to constantly improve on the care that you provide. Using a model like Gibbs or a simple structure of “what happened, now what, so what?” around any discussions or incidents in placements or while working can really push you one step further than just processing an event internally or making little notes. Look at the evidence base for certain decisions or if its a particularly difficult situation to deal with (whether you observed it or just knew the person involved) then reach out to the placement for a debrief or contact your academic advisor for advice.

There is also always the University’s counselling support and occupational health if any adjustments are required following an incident, just use all the available help you can get.

If you are struggling with your mental health then consider contacting Mind, a mental health charity who are there to help you every step of the way.

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