Mental health nursing student insight: Michelle Cotter

What inspired you to study mental health nursing?

"Mental ill health has always played a big part in my family history and 25 years ago there was no where near the support that there is now. I'd like to be able to make the difference and offer the support that myself and my family should have had back then to ensure no other family has to go through what we did.

"Being involved in the patient’s journey and seeing all the little achievements that can impact themselves and their families is wonderful. Mental health nursing has a perfect blend of physical and mental health and the way in which they influence each other is fascinating. Helping someone to thrive and learn to live with a condition that may have a stigma attached plays a big part in being a mental health nurse."

"Halfway through my very first placement when a patient’s family member told me that I had been a calming influence on their parent, I knew nursing was the right path for me. Knowing that even the smallest gestures can make a big impact, especially when family can't visit, made me feel like I can actually do this and that I’m going to be a mental health nurse at the end of it."


What excites you about your course?

"We are half way through first year and the best thing so far has been our cohort. We have been able to meet in small groups but the majority of our interaction is online, yet they are the most supportive, encouraging and motivating group of people and I’m so grateful I get to complete my degree with them.

"The University of Plymouth has a faculty staff team with a wealth of knowledge that I have an interest in. Child and adolescent mental health, addiction and trauma. I like that the University operates the peer assisted learning scheme and that they have an innovative clinical skills lab. The trusts within our placement areas give a variety of practice areas and offer unbeatable learning opportunities."

"So far I have only had one placement and it has been on an acute assessment ward for older people with dementia. This has given me the opportunity to learn about personal care, communication and older people’s physical health. 

"It has also taught me how compassionate and caring I can be, and how hard our nurses work to ensure the patients are comfortable and how important patient centred care is."

What are your future ambitions?

"At the moment I would love to work within child and adolescent mental health but nothing is off limits. I have many placements to still complete and it’s the whole team that can make a placement work. Eventually I would love to become a lecturer and teach a future generation of nurses."

What advice would you give to future students?

"Being able to support someone to live a fulfilling life, building positive therapeutic relationships and helping to lessen the impact of mental health on family and friends means that no two days in mental health nursing are the same. If it is something you have worried that you may have put off for too long or may not be able to deal with academia/placement/family life, there are many within our cohort showing that its definitely possible."