Ben Dobson Hero - Student Insights

What inspired you to choose your course and what is your favourite part of it?

Prior to coming to study at Plymouth, I worked in busy public relations agencies in London for nearly ten years. Whilst my career was going well and it was fun, I didn’t feel fulfilled. I started volunteering at night on a helpline as I knew that I wanted to support people, rather than promoting brands and consumerism.

This passion led me to train and qualify as a counsellor. One of my counselling placements was with a drug and alcohol charity. I loved the environment and felt inspired by the clients and staff I worked with but realised how many people had additional mental health problems that I didn’t know how to work with or understand. I realised that mental health nurses are perfectly placed to work with dual diagnosis (addictions and mental health need) and decided to move on to a different path where I felt that I could help, with a better understanding of client’s lives. The more I looked into nursing, the more I realised how many different types of RMN’s there are, including therapeutic based roles with additional specific therapeutic training options. 

My favourite part of the role is when you see clients’ lives improving. Placements can be challenging and emotionally draining, but when you see someone making steps in their recovery it’s so rewarding. It could be witnessing someone cracking a joke for the first time after months of depression, or someone being able to make personal re-connections that make an improvement in the quality of their life. In these moments you know that you are making a difference to the people’s lives and it is all worthwhile.


What are your future ambitions?

I’d really like to work in a drug and alcohol recovery environment, perhaps in rehabilitation. This is quite a specialist role so it may be that I try and get some ward experience first. I had my last placement in an acute mental health ward and absolutely loved the fast-paced environment so this is something else that I’m considering. There are currently lots of jobs available and it seems that people are able to choose the jobs they want. I’d also be keen to do more training (after a few years break) to learn more specific therapeutic models such as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EDMR) to work with trauma.

What are your favourite places in Plymouth, and what do you like to do?

I’ve recently trained for the Plymouth half-marathon, which meant whilst I trained I got to explore lots of new places. Plymouth has many beautiful open spaces, for example, Saltram House next to the stunning estuary where you feel a long way from the city. I love getting the ferry over to Mount Edgcumbe and running through the woods to Cawsand beach. On a hot day, a dip in the sea is the perfect way to finish a run. I’m not always this energetic though, and on a rainy day, I’ll grab a coffee at the Hutong Café next to the Royal William Yard, where you can still look over the River Tamar to Cornwall.

I enjoy running and wandering around the city and surrounding areas. I love to travel to try and make the most of the holidays to get away to warmer places. Life can get really busy with placements, work and study so when I have time to myself I often like to chill at home, cooking Asian food and binge-watch TV or reading for fun in bed.

A small Peninsula in a body of water - Mount Edgcumbe at Plymouth, England
Mount Edgcumbe

Any tips or advice you'd like to give future students?

“ The course is interesting and varied, but it can be tough. I’ve studied at university before but this really is a full-time course with full-time placements – it requires some sacrifice.”

It’s important to take time for yourself whenever you can and recognise when you are running low or need a break. There are times that you will be working in very difficult or upsetting circumstances – this can be really hard to deal with, but there are mentors on placement to talk to, and the lecturers are also able to offer support. It’s important to make the most of the support available.

A lot of people put extra pressure on themselves to do well academically when it isn’t necessary for them. Don’t feel pressured to compete with peers over grades, it doesn’t matter that much as long as you are getting through it and enjoying it.
It’s good to throw yourself into your placements and get as much as possible from them, as students are often offered jobs from their placement, and you will get much more from the experience.