Reflections of a Newly Qualified Mental Health Nurse

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By Anne Onille-ere, Staff Nurse at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust

Next up in our NQN series, we have a reflective blog written by Anne, who qualified from Middlesex University last year and has kindly shared her preceptorship experience.

I’m a 27-year-old newly qualified nurse, well not as new anymore as I’m coming up to a year now. I fell into mental health nursing by accident and I guess it just stuck. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else right now. Four years ago I knew absolutely nothing and was terrified of all the stories I’d heard about being a mental health nurse. Looking back now it was a wonderful mistake, I finally get to help, advocate for and educate people, which is an amazing experience. Coming from a West African background, it has been great creating awareness within my culture and helping others to understand more about mental health. I am very passionate about people understanding that mental illness does not discriminate and it can affect anyone at any given time.

My most memorable moment is the friends I made who became family by the very definition of the word. We went through the ups and downs and managed to survive it all. I have never seen a group of people so ready to help and motivate one and other. One thing I learned is no man is an island, as a student, you may feel embarrassed to ask for help but never be, no question is too silly to ask and nothing is too big to share.  There are tools available for you so please utilise them.

My biggest challenge was childcare especially during placements; no one can prepare you for the demands of placement. Planning in advance will help, however this is not foolproof as emergencies may arise. Try not to panic when this happens, take a breath and communicate, mentors are also humans and they will understand as long as you communicate well and are reasonable with requests. Respect goes a long way in building good working relationships.


Above all take time out for yourself, friends & family etc. Self-care is important on this nursing journey; you can only go so far without burning out if you don’t look after yourself.

Mental illness does not discriminate and it can affect anyone at any given time.

Well, congratulations you have qualified, you breathe a sigh of relief, then your back on the rollercoaster just in time to start preceptorship.  It’s a strange time because it’s as if your in-between a platform no longer a student but also you don’t feel quite like a fully-fledged nurse. My biggest challenge as an NQN was Depot Clinic, I remember saying to my preceptor, “I’ve had someone watching my back for the last three years, double checking my calculations and administration technique and now I’m meant to just run a clinic on my own”.

I went through a lot of fear, panic and self-doubt; I thankfully had a brilliant team and was supported by my other colleagues. Practice definitely makes perfect as I made sure I was available to learn and improve my skill till I felt confident enough to do it alone. Now I am the one teaching others how to give depots, it’s so strange. I would say any challenge you may face as a NQN or a student don’t give up, have a little patience and a can-do attitude. Try not to compare yourself to others as we all have our strengths which is what makes us all unique.

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If you’d like to read more from our NQN series – just click here

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