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Mental health placement opens students’ eyes

Adult nursing students in London have been randomly selected to undergo a six-week placement with a mental health team.
Paul Chesnaye and Jake Flint

First-year adult nursing students in London have been randomly selected for a six-week placement with a mental health team in a bid to increase awareness beyond patients physical illnesses.

The pilot project, run by North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT), has been praised by students who said they felt lucky to be selected.

It is the brainchild of NELFT rotational nurse lead Paul Chesnaye, who said he sees mental health training as an integral part of a holistic approach to nursing.

As far as NELFT is concerned we are opening up the doors to mental health, demystifying it if you like, he said, explaining that there had been a historical divide between physical and mental health treatment that should not exist.

The importance of mental health training is becoming more widely recognised and is set to be included

First-year adult nursing students in London have been randomly selected for a six-week placement with a mental health team in a bid to increase awareness beyond patients’ physical illnesses.


Jake Flint and Paul Chesnaye

The pilot project, run by North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT), has been praised by students who said they felt lucky to be selected.

It is the brainchild of NELFT rotational nurse lead Paul Chesnaye, who said he sees mental health training as an integral part of a holistic approach to nursing.

‘As far as NELFT is concerned we are opening up the doors to mental health, demystifying it if you like,’ he said, explaining that there had been a historical divide between physical and mental health treatment that should not exist.

The importance of mental health training is becoming more widely recognised and is set to be included in the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s new education standards.

Presently, many university nursing courses include little or no time on mental health.

Six-week placement

The NELFT scheme, in conjunction with London South Bank University, sees first-year students undergo a six-week placement with the trust’s home treatment team.

The students spend the first day or two reading what is expected of a mental health nurse and the legal issues surrounding treatment of patients.

They then shadow mental health nurses, psychiatrists and others on home visits to observe healthcare professionals and their approach to those with mental health issues.

It is only when the students have witnessed a range of conditions and reactions that they head to the classroom.

After further shadowing and training, the students help patients themselves under strict supervision.

Those with enough confidence can go on to lead home visits by the end of the placement.

Experience on wards

Students have the choice to go on wards too, with experience on mental health wards, learning disability wards and others.

Nursing student Jake Flint said: ‘I think everybody should have this experience. You’ll never look at mental health the same again.’

He said it had changed the way he approached patients, including body language, staying calm and not being afraid of a violent person.

Mr Flint explained how one patient had thrown a chair at him, but using the skills he had learned, he was able to calm the person.

It avoided a potentially long wait for a mental health nurse to visit, while other patients were disturbed and staff felt intimidated.

Nursing student Dawn Lee said thinking about mental health could be quite daunting, with an ‘us and them’ stigma, but the placement had taken that away.

She said the training made for a more rounded, more complete nurse.


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