Mental health nursing student insight: Sabrina Lake

Third year BSc (Hons) Nursing (Mental Health) student Sabrina shares her insight into studying at Plymouth.

What inspired you to choose to study mental health nursing?

"I had always wanted to work in a career with people, caring for people. I never thought academically I would be able to get into university, let alone complete a degree. However, one day that light-bulb moment hit and I thought this is it, I was 30 and mother of two, this was my time to follow my passion. That day I was assigned a place on an access course and began my journey. When I think about qualifying as a nurse, it feels with me emotions, excitement, feeling proud of myself and knowing I am doing the right thing. I feel I was meant to do this, spending time with individuals who have experienced such significant events in their lives, listening to their story and being a part of their journey to recovery, I could not feel more honoured. Fighting against the continuous stigma attached to mental health to ensure every individual is listened to and given hope."

What do you love about the profession?

"I love being a part of something that is so needed, the support provided to individuals is critical. Meeting so many different individuals, listening to the most emotionally and interesting stories, I think what fills me with the most pride in when someone chooses to trust you, trust you with their story and feels safe to do so.

"The job is a continuous challenge, there are days I feel emotionally drained, have listened to stories that have resonated in me and required to do some deep reflection and ask myself uncomfortable questions to support me going forward."

"Although those days are tough, they completely melt away with the positives; someone thanks you or someone achieves something they have found so challenging to do. That is when I realise how much I really love this profession.

"During my second year, I had just completed a very demanding community CAMHS placement and something just happened, it’s hard to even describe but I felt different. People around me noticed and that is when I realised, I am working as a nurse, I am doing all the roles required and achieving what I never thought I could. 

"My strength and confidence bloomed overnight, and I felt even more motivated for the rest of my journey as a student nurse."

What are your future ambitions?

"I hope to qualify this year and work within a secure setting working within a mental health team in a prison. Working with males, supporting recovery, hope and providing a positive support between individuals and their families. I hope to be regarded as a kind, empowering, supportive and motivated nurse, that works towards reducing judgement and replacing it with hope."

What excites you about your course?

"It is difficult to pinpoint one part, but I would say the place where I felt most comfortable, where I knew even when all my studies became overwhelming was during my practical placements. Being in constant contact with various individuals that is where I feel the happiest and feel I am making the most difference and made the right choices.

"I have made great friends through our cohort, the support and encouragement we all provide each other with is amazing, I have made friends for life. The lecturers have been a part of our journey and we have experienced times of highs and lows, particularly the last year or so due to COVID they have emphasised and supported us as much as possible, and understood.

"I am proud I took the chance on myself; I am proud of the hard work I have given to this course. My biggest achievement is reaching people, being that safe ear and giving people hope within themselves. Recognising their own importance when perhaps life has not always."

What skills have you gained so far?

"Academically I find it difficult, however I have managed to pass every module and received positive feedback. I have learnt to link practice to theory, and I have grown over the last three years from a new student nurse to becoming a qualified, registered mental health nurse, which fills me with pride.

"I have experienced various placements, inpatient and community. I would say my CAMHS placement supported my growth, confidence and equipped me with the skills as I was working at a band 5 level during my second year. I worked within a secure setting and this is where I wish to work, I learnt so much, pushed myself to achieve things, previously I may have avoided. It has given me the confidence to believe in myself."

What advice would you give to future nursing students?

It is hard at times; you may have times where you question why you chose to do this. But when you experience truly helping individual you will know you made the right decision. I would also recommend reading about the experiences of other students.