- 14 May 2021
- 8 min read
Working In A Helping Profession Helped Me Prepare For A Career In NursingSubscribe To Advice
Naomi shares the things she learned volunteering at a wellbeing centre, and evaluates the importance of picking up experience in a caring role for anyone working in nursing.
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Why I Decided To Volunteer At A Wellbeing Centre
Before applying to study Adult Nursing at university, I decided I would like to volunteer at a local wellbeing centre.
At this point in time, I was eighteen and I did not feel ready for university just yet. I lacked confidence and I knew this was something I wanted to work on before starting my degree, along with my people skills.
I studied a Counselling course at college in the evenings, so I knew it would be easy to fit in my volunteering role during the day.
Nursing Is About Caring For The Whole Person
Although I was planning to study Adult Nursing, this does not mean that working in an area focusing on mental health could not help me to develop valuable knowledge and skills relevant to my field of nursing.
Nursing care is holistic, and it is important to remember that a person’s physical health can impact their mental health and vice versa.
As a student adult nurse, it is extremely unlikely that you will not care for any patients with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
You may even care for children during your placements.
Whatever discipline of nursing you are studying; adult, children, mental health or learning disability, it is important to learn about the other three disciplines of nursing as they all link together and intertwine.
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Overcoming Anxiety And Reservations
After emailing the manager of the wellbeing centre, I met with her for an informal chat about why I wanted to volunteer and she told me about the work that they do and the different types of people who come to the centre.
She told me that she would be happy to have me as a volunteer and we arranged that I would start the next week.
Having just finished sixth form, I had not had much work experience and I was very nervous to start volunteering.
I was worried that I might not know what to say to people who are struggling, what advice to give or that I might say the wrong thing.
But I reminded myself that this was the exact reason why I needed to work on my confidence before starting university and that this role would allow me to interact with people from all different walks of life, just like I will be doing in my placements at university.
Learning To Listen
My main responsibility whilst volunteering at the wellbeing centre was to engage with our members, offering a non-judgemental listening ear for them to talk to.
I would not give advice, only listen, and provide a safe space for people to talk about anything that may be on their mind.
Anything that any of our members would share with me would be kept confidential, I would only need to share information with the centre’s manager if I thought someone was at risk of harming themselves or others.I supported our members to talk to and make friends with each other, often using board games to break the ice and help everyone feel more comfortable around each other.
I also helped to run group activities such as creative writing, arts and crafts and film group, to encourage our members to have fun and bond with others who share the same interests as them.
If I ever felt like I could not fully support someone with a problem they had or I did not have all the information they needed, I would ask their permission to share what we had discussed with the centre’s manager, who may be able to supply them with information that I could not, or help refer them to relevant services.
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Sometimes Simply Being Heard Is All A Patient Needs
The main thing that I learnt from my time volunteering at a wellbeing centre is that when people are upset or angry about something, it is easy to try and offer advice that you think may ‘fix’ the problem, but sometimes people just want you to listen to them and acknowledge what they are feeling.
Instead of feeling like I need to offer solutions to people’s problems, I now focus on making sure that they feel heard and recognise what they are feeling, without trying to minimise their emotions or their problems.
Support Networks Are Key
I also learnt about the different types of services that are available to those who are struggling with their mental health and the importance of having a good support network that people can reach out to when they are experiencing difficulties.
I realised just how beneficial it can be for people to connect with others who have experienced or are currently going through a similar situation to them, whether it be alcoholism, domestic abuse, or bereavement.
As helpful as it can be to talk to a professional, the power of speaking to someone who has experienced a similar problem should not be underestimated.
When I am on placement as a student nurse and I am talking to a patient, if it is appropriate, I may share relevant information about myself in order to communicate my empathy and express that although I cannot understand their exact pain, they are not alone in what they are going through.
Supporting The Family And Friends, As Well As The Patient
My volunteering role also helped me to understand the importance of supporting the person’s family, friends, and carers too.
Now, as a student nurse, I always make a point of asking the family friends or carers of the patient I am caring for how they are doing. You can also read on How To Live & Work In Spain As A UK Nurse.
Developing Transferable Skills For Nursing
Overall, working in a helping role has really aided me to build my confidence, as well as develop many skills transferable to nursing, my problem-solving, decision-making and conflict resolution skills in particular.
Throughout my time volunteering at a wellbeing centre, I was fortunate enough to interact with those from all kinds of different backgrounds, just like I do in my nursing placements.
I significantly developed my ability to empathise with others and enjoyed learning about their experiences and helping them to find their own solutions and ways to manage their problems.
The ability to take responsibility, remain calm and cope with any unexpected situation that may arise was essential in this role and has definitely helped me to prepare me for a career in nursing.
I Would Recommend Voluntary Work To Anyone Considering A Career In Nursing
I worked at the wellbeing centre for two years and only left when I started university but if I had the time, I would definitely still be volunteering in this role now.
When I applied to university, I referred to the transferable knowledge and skills that I had gained whilst working in a helping role, both in my personal statement and my interview, and I feel like this really helped me in gaining a place on my course.
I would encourage anyone planning to embark on a career in nursing to seek experience in a helping role or profession, whether it is paid work or volunteering.
Even if it is only one day a week, it can provide you with valuable knowledge and experience that will help you prepare for a career in nursing. you can read about career breaks for nurses.