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Corina Cowland shares her student nursing story

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in Mental health, News on 20th May, 2020

Corina Cowland is a third Year Mental Health Nursing Student studying at the Exeter school of Nursing (University of Plymouth). 

When Corina was very young, a close relative was diagnosed with a mental illness and she would often see them being sectioned. It was on the frequent visits to the hospital that Corina realised she wanted to help, and her path to becoming a mental health nurse was cemented.

Corina has been working as an Assistant Practitioner on Rougemont ward and agreed to share her journey to becoming a mental health nurse with the Exeter Daily paper. As we are celebrating Mental Health Awareness week, Corina has also shared with us what kindness means to her and below, and in her own words, she tells us her story.

"What does kindness mean to me? Well, I am not going to search for definitions from the internet, nor look to find how I should portray kindness as a health care professional but will simply tell you what kindness means to me. 

"As health care professionals working with individuals with mental health problems we encounter many stories where kindness is non-existent. This to me is deplorable.

"Kindness means being existent, giving a person a sense of belonging, a voice that is heard, to feel safe and to feel worthy of being. To enable a person to feel that they are not in this on their own but are travelling on this journey with the support and kindness of people who care. Kindness is to give empowerment which allows achievements and ambitions to be made and gives a real sense that stigma and inequalities can be banished.

"Kindness is giving totally empathy. Putting yourself in the shoes of people who tell their stories and practising empathy will in turn encourage great kindness towards all those we work with. Here is my story.

"As a child, I grew up with a family member who was diagnosed with a mental health illness. I witnessed many times them being sectioned and quite often would visit them in hospital. From that time I remember saying “I want to work there one day”; referring to the hospital that my relaitve was in.

"Since leaving school, I have always wanted to work in healthcare. I started as a health care assistant in a nursing home before working in an acute psychiatric unit. I have always wanted to become a nurse as I have the compassion and empathy for the people I look after. However, it was not as easy for me to leave school and go straight into university.

"Unfortunately, due to life events when growing up, I did not do so well at school. I barely left with any GCSEs so I decided to go to college. I started a Health and Social Care course starting at level 1 due to the lack of grades that I had. I progressed into my 2nd year obtaining a level 2 BTEC diploma in Health and Social Care. Whilst in my 2nd year I was fortunate to be offered a job in a nursing home where I was doing work experience. There I advanced my skills and complete my NVQ Level 3 in Health and Social Care.

"Five years later I needed a change, so decided to test my ambition in working in mental health and was lucky enough to get a job in an acute psychiatric hospital. After 1 year of working there, I was successful in starting on an Assistant Practitioners course.

"Throughout my years of working in care I have always thrived in providing the highest quality care. The many people I have worked with over the years have been the inspiration in allowing me to believe in myself that I can become a qualified nurse. I was fortunate to start my nurse training with Plymouth University in 2018 and joined direct entry into year 2 due to completing a foundation degree went.

"Since starting my training I have always been based at the Exeter School of Nursing which is very convenient for me. This location has made travelling easy for me that has avoided the lengthy travelling times that many students face. It also has easy access in and out of Exeter with parking nearby. This campus provides a compacted site which helps to locate rooms and facilities much easier. There is a small café situated on site which is not costly and also has a reception where the staff are very friendly and happy to help with all enquires.

"Personally I am not an academic student, however the theory side of studying has allowed me to build on these skills whilst deepening my knowledge. At times I have found the theory side difficult but the university offer a great deal of support whether that be 1:1 tutor support or the local writing café where students can bring in their written pieces in and discuss them with a 3rd year student.

"A huge part of nursing is to have the understanding of why we practice what we do and why we do it. In delivering the highest quality care us as nurses need to know the underpinning knowledge of evidence based practice.

"The placement aspect of nursing has always been the best part of my training. I have found it a joy working with many teams and seeing what they do. I have spent time within community and inpatient wards, where I have carried out assessments, and administered medications in both oral and injectable form. I have acted as nurse in charge of a ward, taken lead of weekly ward rounds and worked closely with patients in developing collaborative care planning. Placements have allowed me to develop a range of nursing skills as well as build my confidence.

"I have found being a student nurse an enjoyable experience. In relation to my experience my highlights have been the practical side of the training such as placements and role play assessments. Placements can be difficult for some. My advice for anyone going into nursing is to drive yourself to be the best you can and seek to gain opportunities to widening your nursing experience.

"I am currently doing my BSc (Hons) in Mental Health nursing and I am in my final year. I have successfully managed to secure a post when I qualify as a registered Mental Health nurse in an acute psychiatric hospital for older people.