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Portia Nyamakanga

Mental Health Nursing - BSc (Hons)

Portia had always wanted to go to university, but only developed her passion for Mental Health Nursing after attending a BCU Open Day. Now she’s in her final year of her course she praises her tutors for the support they’ve given her following her diagnosis with Fibromyalgia as well as for believing in her, even when she didn’t believe in herself.

“It’s always been my ambition to study at university. However, I was only inspired to study mental health nursing when I came for the Open Day event in 2016. I thought the facilities and the tutors were amazing.

During my second year, I became unwell and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I had struggled for a long time with unexplained pain and fatigue, so it was a relief to have a diagnosis. My tutors were amazing and supported me to get reasonable adjustments both while I was working on placement and when I was in University. I was also supported by the occupational health department. This has enabled me to continue my studies, which at one point I thought wouldn’t be possible. The support made me really appreciate choosing BCU as a university.

My personal tutor, Catharine Jenkins, has also supported me tremendously throughout my studies. She has pushed me and believed in me even when I did not believe I could accomplish anything other than a pass mark in my modules. She encouraged me to become a Student Academic Leader, and now I’m also a School Rep, which requires me sitting on committees such as the Faculty’s Quality, Teaching and Learning Committee, to represent the views of my fellow students. It’s really rewarding to be in a position where I can represent my course and make a difference.

The thing I am most proud of achieving during my time here is being shortlisted for ‘Student Nurse of the Year (Mental Health)’ in The Student Nursing Times Awards 2020, which has been amazing! I was nominated by my peers for promoting and enabling social inclusion. I have always advocated fairness, be it in clinical setting or at University. My academic achievements were also a factor as I have attained high marks in all my modules – something which had already been recognised by the University when I was invited to join the High Achievers Recognition Scheme (HARS.) and awarded a scholarship. Being a HARS scholar has given me access to professional coaching and tutoring in good leadership qualities. This programme is bespoke to BCU. By the time I graduate I will have skills that will set me apart from other graduates in the country, giving me a stepping stone to succeed in my career.

The most significant change in me though has been to my self-esteem; I’m now so much more confident in my day-to-day life. I’m more inclined to speak up where before I would have been afraid to do so. I’ve also noticed growth in my academic work as well as in my nursing skills. The structure of the course enables you to learn both theoretically and practically. This helps students to understand the application of learnt skills, legislation or models. Having a dedicated personal tutor throughout the journey is also an important aspect of the course, giving you consistent support on a personal level.

I think a great thing my course has taught me is maturity in my outlook to life. I have realised that instead of taking things at face value, I am now more analytical. I no longer get offended quickly by people’s behaviour; I’m more understanding of the intricate influences of past experiences to people’s presenting behaviours. When I started my course, it was just about the learning experience.

However, I was catapulted into a diverse community, which has given me with fulfilling, meaningful student experience.

Mental Health Nursing has definitely opened up many career paths for me. I know I will go into teaching one day, but for now I want to gain experience in the nursing field, and then progress with my career. When I came to university, I only wanted a nursing degree, but I have had a lot more given to me.

To me, I AM BCU means having an unlimited, bright career path ahead of you. It means hard work paying off. It means knowing I can achieve anything if I set my mind to it and work hard.”

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