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  • 30 May 2023
  • 6 min read

How To Complete Physical Health Proficiencies For Student Mental Health Nurses

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Higher standard for student Mental Health Nurses“It is now an NMC requirement that Student Mental Health Nurses have a higher standard of general physical health training and education.”

In this article, Angelica shares her helpful tips for signing off physical health proficiencies as a Student Mental Health Nurse, and the importance of training in providing safer care for mental health patients.

In placement practice, it is known that Student Mental Health Nurses can have difficulty getting their physical health competencies signed off.

It is now an NMC requirement that Student Mental Health Nurses have a higher standard of general physical health training and education as, in the profession, we can sometimes lack the knowledge and skills in practice. That’s why NMC have changed the training.

However, as it stands in most mental health fields of practice, we still don’t use our physical health skills. Which is why Student Nurses can really struggle to get those proficiencies signed off.

I’m a third-year student and I have experienced how difficult it can be to sign off the proficiencies, but I have lots of helpful and useful advice on how to help achieve this!

Physical Health Care In Mental Health Practices

Most mental health practices don’t provide high levels of physical health care for their patients as it's not necessarily required. Mental Health Nurses, for example, would not routinely provide IV drips to patients on an acute inpatient ward, since they do not have the facilities. We would send a seriously ill patient to a general ward for that level of specialist care.

But what the NMC wants from Mental Health Nurses is to have a good education and knowledge of generalised physical health, and to be aware of the signs/symptoms of someone’s physical health deteriorating and how we would manage that.

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Attend Your Skills Sessions

The first thing to keep in mind is that most universities now realize how difficult and tricky it is to sign off physical health skills such as IV drips, IV bags, and cannulations. As a result, ‘skills sessions’ have been created based on the proficiencies that need to be signed off.

You must attend these sessions and show your supervisor/assessor at your placement evidence that you've attended, which is usually a certificate, so they can sign you off. There are some universities where lecturers will sign off for you as your supervisor/assessor.

Use Your Initiative

Next thing is to use your initiative: you can’t rely on your placement team/assessor to organise you all the time. Identify where you can sign off your proficiencies since not every placement can accommodate you.

If you need advice or someone who can help you, ask your assessor/manager. But you will need to arrange ‘outreach’ placements where you can go for a day or two. Additionally, it will help you figure out where you would like to work in the future and where you don't.

Examples of placement areas you can go to are:

• A&E • Depot/clozapine clinics

• Physical health clinics

• Eating disorder units

It is now an NMC requirement that Student Mental Health Nurses have a higher standard of general physical health training and education.

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Book Yourself Into Training Events

You can also book yourself onto physical health training events, such as Vital signs/NEWS, under whichever Trust you are working for. These are often free.

A tip on how to do this is look at your Trust’s learning events online. For example, you can use the Trust intranet to do this.

Examples of standard NHS mental health nursing training can be:

• Completion of vital signs and National Early Warning Scores (NEWS)

• Falls awareness.

• Drug and alcohol awareness

• Continence care

• Pain management

• Diabetes

• Nutrition and hydration

• Smoking cessation

• Guidelines for High Dose Antipsychotic Medication

• Tissue Viability Policy

• Clozapine Medication Policy

• Rapid Tranquilisation Policy

Also, you can do your Trust’s E-learning physical health modules online and show that you have completed them to your assessor.

Whichever Trust you work for, all NHS staff must do mandatory E-learning every year. This could be CPR/Manual handling training, for example.

Get Support If You Need It

Outreach placements can be stressful, frustrating, and time-consuming to arrange, but your assessor will be highly impressed with your organisational skills. You can explain the physical health procedures to them if you do some research.

If you are having trouble finding outreach placements or getting them to sign the competencies, most assessors will sign off if you print out leaflets or bring in a book.

Although signing off the competencies can be tricky, it is a requirement of the NMC that you do so. However, if you are really struggling, you can enlist the help of your placement managers, or your university lecturer/personal tutor, as well as other Student Nurses. You will find that most people are willing to help you, so don't hesitate to ask.

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In conclusion, to provide better, safer care to patients, Mental Health Nurses need to stay unwavering in their determination to ensure Student Nurses receive good physical health education and training.

However, while on placement, Student Nurses identified obstacles that must be addressed to integrate physical health training adequately. For this to be achieved, Student Nurses would have to have improved access to training, be signposted to training by the nursing team, and be supported in their efforts.

If you’re looking for more helpful tips for Student Nurses, you can check out our dedicated advice here.

About the author

I am a student mental health nurse who has a passion for community nursing. I’ve had many years of experience working in various, different mental health fields but i have now found my feet working in the community. I’ve known since i was little that i was always going to be in a caring role and then I accidentally fell into mental health nursing and i would never go back! It has my heart.

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