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  • 26 March 2019
  • 19 min read

Nursing Q&A with RMN Chloe

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

Chloe is back with another Q&A, but this time as a qualified RMN. In this Q&A she answers your questions about student nursing and what life as an RMN is like.

Play video: Chloe is back with another Q&A, but this time as a qualified RMN!

Hello guys and welcome back to my channel!

My name is Chloe if you are new here, and if you are I would love you to hit that big red subscribe button down below, and of course, if you enjoyed the video don't forget to give it a big thumbs up.

So today I have got for you another video and it's sponsored by the lovely people over at Nurses.co.uk.

They are a jobs website built by nurses, for nurses and as well as having loads of incredible career opportunities on their website they also have loads of blog posts - some of which I've actually written!

So I will leave all their links down below, and whether you are looking to get into nursing, a student nurse, a qualified nurse, whatever level of Nursing you're at, I definitely recommend you check out their website.

This month's video that I'm working with them to create is a Q&A; because on every single one of my nursing videos, I get so many questions from you guys.

I did a Q&A quite a while ago, and to be honest with you I haven't even checked that video, so I can’t remember what questions I was asked previously. You can see my student nursing Q&A here on Nurses.co.uk.

But I thought I'd do one again because I'm aware that there's a lot of people that have joined me since I made that video, so you guys might have the same questions, you might have different questions and my answers might have changed.

Anyone who is new around here, I am a mental health nurse.

I qualified last year so I've been qualified about 6 months now which still feels very weird for me to say!

Without further ado, I'm gonna jump straight on into it!

What were your best and worst placements?

My first question is from Rebecca, and I chat to Rebecca all the time so I know she's already a student nurse, and she has asked me ‘what were your best / worst placements?’.

For me would say the biggest thing that made a difference in terms of placement was not the area whatsoever.

I have had placements in areas that I definitely didn't want to work in that I really enjoyed and then I had placements that were kind of around the area that I wanted to work in and I didn't enjoy them.

The key factor to whether or not I enjoyed the placement was the team that I was working with, in particular, the mentor that I was working with.

The worst placement I ever went on was two months in a community CAMHS service, and whilst I really enjoyed the placement and I learned a lot from it, I went home in tears almost every single day because my mentor was just such a nasty woman and it just made me absolutely miserable.

I would suggest if you're in a similar situation, try and talk to them about why you're having quite a difficult time working with them.

If this doesn't work speak to your university because they can help in this situation.

Neither of these things I did and I really regretted it because you know there's a possibility that we might have been out to resolve some of the issues and I wouldn't've hated my placement quite as much.

If neither of that helps whatsoever just try and spend as little time as possible with them.

There's gonna be a certain amount that you have to work with them in order for them to sign you off - for my uni you had to spend 40% of your time with your mentor, but I spent as much time as I possibly could with other professionals.

I was going out with the social workers, the psychologists, getting involved with other members of the team and going out and getting involved with what they were doing, just so that I didn't have to spend too much time with this woman!

My best placements, on the other hand, were placements where I walked in and I felt like a member of the team.

My pet peeve is when you turn up to placement and they referred to you as like the student, like ‘get the student to do it’ - I'm not ‘the student’, I'm Chloe!

That's something that I have gone out of my way to do since becoming a qualified nurse; I will not refer to anyone as the student. I might say ‘have you met our new student, Chloe?’ but I won't refer to them as ‘the student’.

That was a key factor of like a really good placement for me, was walking in and feeling like I was part of the team and just feeling supported by the nurses, the doctors, the support workers and everyone else that was part of that team.

It really made a massive difference to how much I enjoyed the placement, whether or not it was a field of Nursing I actually wanted to work in.

I also have a vlog on nursing placement advice which will be very useful if you're looking to train as a nurse!

Play video: Chloe shares what she wishes she knew before nursing!

Do mental health students have to do OSCEs?

Caitlin has asked ‘do you mental health students do OSCE exams, if so what do they entail?’.

Now for anyone who doesn't know what OSCEs is, it stands for an objective structured clinical examination.

I think this varies from university to university because as a mental health student did not do an OSCE as part of my degree, however, I have met other people that have done mental health nursing and did do an OSCE, so I think this is gonna depend from university to University.

Also what branch of Nursing you do because I know that adult and children's nurses did do OSCEs at my university but learning disability and mental health nurses didn't.

But essentially the point of an OSCE is to assess whether or not you know the information and you're able to apply it and use it in the way that a nurse would.

So essentially this will be like a real-life scenario, so you will walk into the exam room it'll just be yourself and maybe two examiner's and they will give you a patient.

They'll tell you as much as you need to know about this patient and then you need to go through step by step what you would do as a nurse if you were coming in to assess and deliver care for this patient.

I feel like this sounds really really scary to people but in theory if you've got to that stage of your degree, because they're normally sort of later they're in like your second and third years of training, you will have the knowledge and you would know what to do if it was a real-life situation, if that was a real patient you would know what to do.

I know some people panic in kind of exam situations though but I think the key thing to remember with this is the examiners aren't trying to trick you out.

They're not gonna give you like the most complicated patient in the world, it's gonna be something fairly straightforward but you will definitely have been taught about and they're just looking to see whether you can apply the knowledge you've learned because it's all well and good being able to write essays and take exams but that isn't what makes you a good nurse.

So I actually kind of wish I had done an OSCE because I really liked the idea of them.

So I'm going to suggest don't over complicate them and just look at the patient in front of you and look at as many different ways that you could possibly take care of this person.

You're gonna do fine!

Play video: do you struggle with night shifts? Chloe shares her tips on how to survive them.

How do you juggle working in a job with doing uni work and placements?

Someone called Felice, I hope I'm saying that right, asked me ‘I'm just wondering how you manage to have a job whilst studying full-time and how you manage to juggle completing placements work and assignments?’.

The answer to this is, with great difficulty!

I'm not gonna lie to you guys, I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, it was really difficult but when I studied we were entitled to the bursary which most people think is a great thing, and don’t get me wrong it is a great thing, unfortunately obviously this has now been scrapped and whilst I think we should have the bursaries it's worth remembering that the bursary system wasn't the ideal system, and I actually ended up with a lot less money in my bank account than I would have done had I been studying an English degree, for example.

Because I was studying in central London away from my parents, based on what my parents earn I would have been entitled to the top student loan, so I think it was something like £11,000.

Whereas under the bursary system I was entitled to £5,500, so yes I've ended up with a lot less debt however I really really struggled to pay my rent and to eat and generally have a life and do things that I enjoy doing.

So, unfortunately, I had no choice but to work on top of being at uni full-time and obviously still having to do assignments and things like that.

The key thing for me here is time management and it is something that you're gonna learn as you go along, but I think the only way I managed to do it was to make the most of every single second I possibly could.

So one of my placements in my third year it was an hour and a half by bus away from where I lived, and I would literally take textbooks, my notebook, flashcards, whatever you need.

What I was doing at the time, I would take that on the bus with me and I would sit and do my uni work on the bus because that was three hours a day that I would have been wasting, like scrolling through Instagram or something, whereas I ended up using that time productively and could read through my textbooks, make notes of something I wanted to put in an assignment or use my flashcards to revise for exams.

Even when I got really desperate I’d literally take my laptop with me and I'd sit typing away on my laptop from the notes that I'd made writing my assignment on the bus.

So as I said it is difficult but it is feasible.

It also really helps if your job is flexible.

So I personally was working as a support worker on a bank basis, so that means I could pick and choose whenever I wanted to work.

So during the periods when I wasn't quite as busy I would work extra and then put that money aside when I was super busy I had a bit of a safety net to fall back on.

If you can avoid it I would highly recommend against using things like credit cards and overdrafts.

I know for some people they're not going to have a choice but if you can avoid it I would definitely recommend it because that's just more and more stress that you're going to add on to yourself that could potentially be avoided.

The next question is from M.L. and they said ‘how did you know where you wanted to work when you were qualified, was it somewhere you'd been on placement?’

I feel like there are so many different wards, clinics, communities, hospitals, yet we only get nine placements for the whole three years.

I personally don't talk about where I work just because of the obvious privacy reasons but I will say that the area I work in is an area that I had a placement in.

However, it's not the area that I thought I would end up in at all - in fact, the area I now work in is the one area that I swore blind I was never gonna work in, and yet here I am!

I would say don't put too much pressure on yourself to work out where you want to go when you first qualify because you can so easily move jobs.

If you've been around for a while you might remember that I had quite a few different job offers that I was deciding between when I qualified and I ended up going for somewhere that I'd never worked.

You can always go into one area when you first qualify, work there for a year, decide it isn't for you and move to a different area.

It's not like if you get a job in, I don't know, say a prison, straight out of university, you're never gonna be able to work anywhere else.

I've met a lot of people in my time studying that have been in the same area for their entire career but I've also met a lot of people that have jumped around, that went straight out into the community then came back onto the wards, then went into a crisis type team.

There are so many opportunities available in nursing and you don't know what job opportunities are gonna be available in five years.

The way that our services look in five years time might be completely different from how our services look now.

So I would say don't put too much pressure on yourself, just try to find a job that suits you - whether that the hours, the team, being fairly close to your house you can get there easily by bus, you know whatever it is that's gonna make your life a little bit easier as a newly qualified nurse, go with that.

If it doesn't turn out to be exactly the area you want to work in you can easily go and work somewhere else in six months or a years time.

Play video: Chloe shares her experiences as a newly qualified RMN.

What does a nurse do in a shift?

The next question is from Annabel, who said ‘what type of activities do you do as a nurse? I know this must differ from day to day but are there any mandatory things that you must do with your patient when you start your shift?’.

You're right, this does vary massively from day to day.

It's gonna vary depending on what area of Nursing you work in, it's gonna vary depending on what ward or team you work in.

For me, because I'm ward based the one thing you can guarantee will be in your day as a nurse is notes and documentation and writing reports, because if it isn't documented then it didn't happen.

So absolutely everything you do you will have to document in some way, shape or form.

So that's the one thing you can kind of guarantee you're gonna be doing as a nurse.

Another thing that you're going to be doing in most areas that you work in is medication.

So again, I'm ward based so we have medication sort of three times a day on the day shift and then once on the night shift.

Working in mental health things like care plans and risk assessments are gonna need to be regularly reviewed with your key patients and then everything else that happens can change drastically.

You might have ward rounds on certain days of the week, you might have meetings on certain days of the week, there might be days when there are activities running on your ward.

I have done like a day-in-the-life type video of a nurse, you can check that out here, but to be honest with you there is no such thing as a typical day.

Read this blog on what a registered nurse does to see more on what a day in the life of a nurse is like.

Play video: why is nursing such a great career? Chloe shares why she loves being an RMN.

What was the hardest thing about being a student nurse?

Emma said that she's starting her degree in September - good luck, I'm also really jealous you’re doing the dual-qualified, I very nearly did the dual-qualified!

She asks ‘what is the hardest thing about your three years as a student nurse?’.

For me, I would have to say it was kind of the pressure on my time.

As I've already said I was juggling work placements uni work there was a lot that I needed to do in what felt like not a lot of time so that for me was definitely the thing that I struggled with the most, was kind of getting myself into a routine where I could still have some kind of life and get a little bit of the uni experience, but also get everything done that I needed to get done to the standard that I wanted to achieve.

I'd consider myself to be quite an academic person so I didn't particularly struggle with the essays and exams etc, I just struggle to have time to do them.

I would say if there's one skill you want to really sort of hit the nail on the head with before you start uni it's gonna be time management, being really strict with yourself.

Also budgeting; if you're good with budgeting it's gonna make your life as a student nurse a whole lot easier.

Are rankings something you should consider when choosing a uni?

Melissa asks ‘did you choose the best uni for nursing, if not why as everyone says you should?’ and then she's clarified by saying she means like the best in terms of ranking.

I didn't choose the best in terms of ranking I went to London Southbank, and I think it's not low down the table but it's certainly not one of the top universities in the country but for me, that wasn't really something that I considered when I was looking at doing nursing.

What I really looked at was the trust that I was gonna be working in and what hospitals I was gonna be based in, because that was quite important for me.

I also really wanted to live in London so I was only really looking at London universities, whereas I think kind of the top nursing universities are, I want to say Edinburgh and Manchester I think are the top ones in the country for nursing, but I wanted to be in London.

For me, Nursing is so hands-on and so practical that actually the academic side of things, the University side of things isn't the most important thing in determining whether or not you're gonna be a great nurse.

In terms of jobs, it makes very little difference because there are so many vacancies for nurses out there that which University you went to isn't really gonna make a difference.

In some fields coming from a Russell group University would give you a massive advantage in applying for the jobs but in nursing, there isn't that kind of competition because of the number of vacancies.

Why did I become a nurse?

Then I had two similar questions, one also from Melissa and one from Sam, just kind of asking what led me into nursing and how did I know that I wanted to be a nurse.

I don't really have an answer for this, to be honest with you.

I would say that I've always been quite a caring person when I was younger I would be the one looking out for other kids in the class, the kind of person that if I saw someone struggling with their shopping I would just automatically go and help them.

I've always just been that kind of person that's been quite a caring person I guess, so I think it was quite natural for me to want to go into a field where I was gonna help people, however initially I was leaning more towards psychology but I was very aware that it was gonna be a long time and a lot of studying before I ever got patient contact which is what I wanted to do.

I didn't want to study for years and years and years before I ever saw a patient and that's another thing that kind of put me off medicine, put me off becoming a doctor because I actually wanted to get stuck in straightaway helping people.

So when I was in sixth form I saw a careers advisor because they gave us all an appointment at the start of year 12 with a careers advisor, and I was discussing this with them and it was actually the careers advisor that suggested a mental health nurse job and said that it sounded like this would be for me, having the best of both worlds, this will be exactly what I want to do.

The more he looked into it the more I realized that it fit me perfectly because I had that interest in mental illness and psychology and trauma, but I also wanted to get stuck straight into helping people.

So nursing seemed like the perfect fit and it really did work well for me because within six weeks of starting my degree I was on a mental health ward as a student nurse, getting stuck in so that's pretty much how I got into kind of nursing and mental health nursing.

To be honest with you I wouldn't change it for the world.

I love my career and I'm really excited where it'll lead me in the future I have mentioned before that at some point I would love to do a Ph.D. if that's feasible, I don't know!

I'm gonna start my masters in September and I would love at some point to do a Ph.D. and work more in kind of the service development type thing and improving services, improving the treatments available to patients.

I'm really loving the job that I do at the moment you know being out on the ‘shop floor’ as it's referred to, doing the hands-on nursing care.

There were definitely times when I doubted myself when I was a student and I didn't know if this was the right thing for me if I was gonna cope if I would enjoy my job, but it's pretty safe to say that I love what I do so I feel very fortunate!

That is everything that I wanted to talk to you guys about today.

Don't forget to give the video a big thumbs up if you enjoyed it and hit subscribe because I make nursing videos once a month and there's a whole load of other kinds of content thrown in there as well.

As I’ve already mentioned all the links for Nurses.co.uk will be down below, and I will see you next time! 

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About the author

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse (RMN) in August of 2018 and started as a newly qualified nurse shortly after. On top of nursing I juggle creating content for both my YouTube channel and blog.

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