Mary O’Toole – BSc (Hons) Psychology graduate

Year of graduation: 1993

Current employer: Plymouth University

Current job title: Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing

Current location: Plymouth

“Plymouth is a fabulous university and an excellent, and relatively affordable, student city; the facilities are great and it is a really good place to live.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

After graduating, I decided to undertake mental health nurse training and qualified in 1995. I worked as a mental health nurse at the Maudsley Hospital in London for a number of years. Whilst working as a nurse, I studied for a masters and went in to work in research. In 2003 I started working as a lecturer in mental health nursing at Kings College London, teaching on the undergraduate and postgraduate nursing course. At this time I obtained a postgraduate qualification in teaching. In 2011 I moved to Plymouth to take up the position of lecturer in mental health nursing. I am still here and still enjoying the job!

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Working on an acute mental health inpatient ward was extremely difficult at times, but it was a great challenge and I met some wonderful people.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

Whilst I was working at the Maudsley Hospital in South London, I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend a conference in Toronto, Canada. We had to present a paper to the American Nurses Association: it was really exciting and very interesting to see how differently the health service works over there. We also got to explore Toronto, which is a fabulous city!

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

It may sound obvious but make sure being a mental health nurse is really what you want to do. It is a very rewarding career, but it can be very intense at times and it is proper hard work! Teaching is a different pace but can also be quite stressful at times – it is great to see the students’ progress over the three years.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

I found the degree in Psychology really interesting and it opened up so many opportunities for me. Having grown up in London, I loved living in the South West – so much so that I came back!

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

So many great memories! The social side was brilliant: ‘Sea Anglers’ on a Friday night, the JSV, and trips to Dartmoor on a Sunday in my old Ford Escort crammed full of fellow students. Also, seeing a local band called ‘The Retreat’ every Sunday night at ‘The Cooperage’.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

Yes – I still see the girls I shared a house with in the first and second year. I am also married to a fellow Plymouth graduate (we were there at the same time although, rather weirdly, our paths never crossed on campus).

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Yes, definitely. Plymouth is a fabulous university and an excellent, and relatively affordable, student city; the facilities are great and it is a really good place to live as the campus is in the city and yet right next to the sea and very close to Dartmoor and other great places to visit. I think it’s so important to have fun while you are studying and it is entirely possible to do this in Plymouth.

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