Third year nursing student, Sarah, speaks to us for Mental Health Nurses Day

February 19, 2021

Third year nursing students have played a vital role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting registered nurses as part of their extended clinical placement.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) reintroduced emergency education standards during the second wave to enable final year nursing students to opt-in to support the response. The decision followed a request from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, supported by the Chief Executive of the NHS, in response to the continuing, intense pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of Mental Health Nurses Day, we spoke to some of our third year nursing students about why they decided to take on this role and what drives them.

Sarah-Louise Clarke is currently studying mental health nursing at the University of Essex. She’s joined our specialist community mental health team in Colchester and explains how much she has enjoyed being part of the team.


What inspired you to get into mental health nursing?

Seeing an increase in the need for mental health services inspired me to choose this career path. I’ve always wanted to make a difference, so it was natural for me, as I also knew that the need was there. Seeing how I could help people pushed me to make a difference. I’ve worked in mental health and healthcare for 11 years now. I’ve worked in mental health units in the private sector, in general adult health, in supported living for those with learning disabilities and I managed a team in domiciliary care, but I wanted to go to university to progress in my career.


Why did you decide to opt in to undertake this clinical placement?

I saw the impact that the pandemic was having on health services and I wanted to be a part of the workforce to help them as best I can. I’m still studying and completing assignments, but this has been amended to accommodate my redeployment.


How are you finding your placement at EPUT?

I absolutely love it, I really do. Working with the Colchester specialist community mental health team has been great. The team are brilliant and the role includes so much versatility which has allowed me to build on my knowledge and learn new things which will help me with my future career.


What do your daily jobs include?

I complete visits and take part in team phone calls. I virtually meet with service users to ensure that contact is maintained and that they feel supported. I complete contact work and administer medication under supervision. I work with the duty team in crisis situations and provide contacts or support and advice. Sometimes other services will also contact me for advice. It’s quite a reactive job working with duty team.


What do you like most about what you do?

I enjoy speaking and connecting with people – I feel it’s the most important part of the job. I enjoy having regular contact with service users and love being part of the team.


What are your hopes for your future career in nursing?

I hope to remain in, and progress within, community services. I want to make an impact, even if it’s only for one person, I would be happy with that.


What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting into mental health nursing?

It’s truly a rewarding job and it provides a real insight into ourselves and other people. It’s such an interesting job and I am constantly learning. Unfortunately, there is still stigma attached to mental health, but we can help reduce the stigma by being involved in the fight against it.


We want to thank all of our third year nursing students for taking on this challenging role at such a difficult time. We wish you the very best in your future careers and look forward to welcoming you as employees and registered nurses at EPUT in the future.