I was recently invited to the Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) influencer day. This was to learn more about a career in nursing at the Cambridge campus. Although I myself do not see myself as becoming a nurse, I was really interested in finding out more, as I think that nurses are absolutely brilliant. I also really believe in education and people investing in themselves to follow their dreams and go to university as mature students.
We started with a talk looking at what mental health is. What is a good definition of mental health? This was really thought-provoking and the lecturer, Tony Calvey, was really engaging and easy to listen to. Tony explained that we should not look at mental health as being someone with good mental health or ill mental health. Instead, we need to view mental health as a continuum. This helps stop people from being labeled and stereotyped, or perhaps worse, falling through the cracks as they do not fit into certain categories.
A great point that I took away from the talk, was when Tony said that good mental health does not mean symptom-free. I think that this struck a chord, as I still have symptoms of depression which I manage with medication. It makes you feel as if you are unwell, but looking at it like this means that you can take the ‘ill’ label away.
Another interesting point was that there have not been very many advances in mental health over the years. We still do not understand a great deal about mental health and different conditions. For example, there is no scan or blood test to diagnose a mental health condition such as depression, compared to how physical conditions are diagnosed. The medications used to treat mental health conditions are the same as what we used in the 1950s. Although they have been improved to help lessen side effects, there have not been any new groundbreaking treatments.
This is quite alarming to hear when you think about how much mental health affects so many of us. We all have both mental and physical health, so anyone could become unwell. A quick search online and I discovered that a report from mentalhealth.org (2016) highlighted that one in five adults in the UK has considered taking their own life. There has been a large increase in mental health diagnoses and prescriptions for anti-depressants have increased at a record amount.
Tony finished with a word of caution. The slogan ‘it’s good to talk’ has been used to help spread awareness of mental health. It is true that it is good to talk to someone when you are struggling, but we also need to remember that it can be very hard to listen. If a loved one chooses you to talk too, it can be very difficult to know what to say. It can also be difficult to hear someone you care for talking about how much they have been struggling. They may describe suicidal thoughts which can be distressing to hear. We need to think about these issues, rather than telling people to talk to anyone.
This short talk gave me so much to think about, it was really interesting. If you have an interest in mental health and have thought about nursing, then it could be a fantastically rewarding career and perhaps mental health nursing would be a good choice for you.
The second part of the day was a talk from Paul Driver about the benefits of virtual reality (VR). VR can be used to simulate lots of different scenarios which aid learning. Anglia Ruskin is embedding VR into many courses as they can see the benefits of using this technology. One example of how they are using VR is a simulation of visiting an older ladies home. You can go into different rooms of the house and open cupboards to view food and medications. The older lady is there with you, talking to you, just as would happen if you were doing a real-life home visit. This way you can practice risk assessments and medication checks to help students gain confidence for when they are out in the world.
We got to have a go at doing the home visit VR and it was really good. It did feel as if I was in the ladies house with her. I can see how useful this will be to students, as it is basically the next best thing to actually doing a real home visit. It is programmed to play sounds from different locations which can draw your attention to different areas in the house. This really gives you a complete 360 experience.
A mock ward
The final part of the day was to visit the mock ward. This is a hospital ward with actual patients (well, electronic mannequins!). I did not expect the mannequins to be electronic. When we first entered the ward, I jumped out of my skin when I caught the ‘patient’ moving out of the corner of my eye! They are actually really clever and have pulses, breath, the eyes open and close and they can talk to you. Students can practice so many skills using them and they have child mannequins as well for those studying the child nursing degree. They have cameras inside the ward so that students can watch themselves back, which is really useful for helping the students develop.
A job for life
I asked if they have many mature students at the Cambridge campus. They said that they have a good mix of both mature students and younger students. Therefore, age is not a barrier if nursing is something which you would like to pursue. The diagram below, designed by the Department of Health, illustrates all of the routes that you can follow. If you are older and perhaps feel that you do not have the right qualifications to gain a place on a degree, there are one-year courses that you can take to help you brush up on your study skills and which give you entry to a degree program.
All of the staff which I met while at the Cambridge campus were friendly and passionate about what they do. Last year 96% of the nursing graduates were employed in professional roles, within six months of completing their degrees which is great to hear. The facilities which I saw were all fantastic and I must say if I could have my university experience again, I would definitely apply for a place at ARU. It really was a lovely place and a brilliant experience for myself too.
I shall finish with a huge thank you to all of the staff at ARU who I met at the event. I would also like to thank the lovely ladies from Mobas who invited me to the event.