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Can you become a Nurse with a Mental Illness?

24th May 21

According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), there is no evidence to suggest anyone with a mental illness can’t become a nurse.

In fact, having first-hand experience with mental illness can be an asset to you and your patients. You’ll be able to identify signs of mental illness and share knowledge on how to manage it. Or share resources that you found helpful that could potentially help them too. Even getting into contact with other professionals in the health care sector should you feel they need it.

As a society, the conversation surrounding mental health and wellbeing has come a long way. Although we still have a way to go to make sure misconceptions are truly stamped out. Progress has still been made and therefore shouldn’t affect your ambitions of getting qualified.

If you are in a place where you can manage your mental illness effectively then you’d needn’t worry. You would be a valued member of the workforce and bring skills and experiences that others won’t have.

What to expect working as a nurse

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As a nurse, your daily tasks and responsibilities will depend on where you’re located and what you specialise in. Your day working as a mental health nurse will differ from those who work in a residential home. Although each nursing role has the same goal, to provide the best care possible for those in need.

You’ll work alongside a range of healthcare professionals from doctors and surgeons to psychiatrists and social workers. As well as communicating with patients and their families to ensure they are kept up to date on the current situation.

As a nurse, you’ll spend most of your time dealing with patients directly. Helping people understand their conditions, keeping their records up to date and supporting them through treatment.

Often you’ll see a patients’ health improve which can be extremely rewarding. However, the reality of the role means that is not always the case. These can be stressful circumstances to deal with, so you need to make sure you’re resilient enough for the role.

That’s not to say if you have mental health challenges yourself then you can’t handle these situations. It’s just best to be aware that your workday won’t always be easy. And you need to have things in place to protect your own mental health and wellbeing in the role.

How your experience can help others

Having a professional who understands what it’s like to have a mental illness can be hugely beneficial to patients and colleagues.

For your patients, you’ll be able to talk with them about these issues and share your experiences. As you’re more on an equal footing with them, it may be easier to discuss their issues with you. Knowing that you’re not judging or dismissing their struggles.

You’ll have a more genuine response and a better idea of how to support them through this challenging time. This interaction can help show people that they’re not alone and that they can live happily despite their mental illness.  

On the other hand, it may help your colleagues without mental illnesses to see things from a different perspective. So that they can be more aware of their actions and words moving forward. As well as reflect on their own mental health.

You’re also more likely to notice signs of poor mental health and be better equipped to handle emergency situations. Or just general chats around the subject in general.

Overall, if you’re able to utilise your experience to help others then it’ll make you a better nurse.

Getting qualified

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To become a fully qualified nurse you’ll need to have completed a nursing degree. Most commonly this is done through a university, but you can do it through an apprenticeship scheme too. Although these are far and few between.

If you’re considering university then you’ll need to meet university entry requirements. Each university can set its own entry requirements. So, double-check with your desired institute if you have a certain place in mind.

Most commonly they’ll ask for GCSE English and maths and sometimes a science too. As well as 2/3 relevant A Levels or equivalent.

If, for whatever reason, you do not hold these qualifications then don’t worry, all hope is not lost. An Access to Higher Education Diploma (Nursing) is a solid alternative to A Level study.

This is a popular route for anyone 18 and over without A Levels. As you only need to take one course to meet university entry requirements instead of 2/3 A Levels. Depending on your final grade your Access to HE Diploma could be worth between 48 and 144 UCAS Points. That is equivalent to 3 A’s at A Level.

Just make sure that the university you wish to attend accepts the Access to HE Diploma. Although the overwhelming majority do, some do not. So it’s always best to make sure before enrolling on any courses.  

Or, if you already have a degree, then you may be eligible to complete a postgraduate degree in nursing instead. Assuming your degree is in a relevant field to nursing.

Studying online

Not only is the Access to HE Diploma (Nursing) a more cost and time-efficient option to meet entry requirements. It can also be completed through online study. Allowing you to work towards your qualification without impacting your current schedule.

Whether you choose to work from home, during your lunch break or after the school run it’s completely up to you. You have the flexibility to engage with your studies whenever suits you best. There are no classes you need to keep up with, just set the pace and place of your learning yourself.

What’s more, all the learning material is readily available to you as soon as you enrol. Unlike physical colleges where you’d need to wait for term time to begin. Allowing you to get on with your learning and reach your goal of becoming a nurse as soon as possible.

If you’re considering becoming a nurse then we can help. learndirect is the UK’s leading online learning provider. Offering a broad range of courses from A Levels to Access to Higher Education Diplomas.

All our courses have flexible payment options and dedicated tutors to support your learning. They’ll provide you with constructive feedback on your assignments and any extra assistance when needed.

To learn more on how to prepare for your online learning journey visit our blog here.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards becoming a nurse get in touch today or browse below.

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