Posted Wednesday 5 August 2020
Mental health nursing student Sam Godfrey took a rather unconventional path to university, working in the fitness industry for several years after leaving school.
It wasn't until he started struggling with this own mental health that he decided to read up on the topic and had what he describes as a lightbulb moment - realising that he could train to help others experiencing similar problems. "There was one lady who supported me at that time who was very caring and had a lot of compassion. I thought, if I could help just one person who had issues with their mental health, I'd be happy," he said.
"I'd always thought I might go to university when I was mature enough to really commit to the study," he explains. "But sometimes life throws you something unexpected and you have to figure out what to do next. So I decided to just go for it."
In August last year, aged 26, Sam was accepted through the Clearing process onto a nursing course run jointly by Kingston University and St George's, University of London. "I had never heard of Clearing at the time, I just searched for university courses and discovered that Kingston University is the top university in London for nursing. From that moment I decided I was going to Kingston." He was offered a place on the Mental Health Nursing BSc (Hons) course and said he didn't think twice about accepting it.
Sam didn't want to commute from his Essex home, so support staff helped him apply for a maintenance grant and find accommodation within a just few days of being accepted on to the course. "It was really challenging getting everything together so quickly but I was really excited too about getting back into study," he said.
Although it might not have seemed like an obvious route, Sam recognised many transferable skills he was able to bring from his work in fitness to his chosen study in mental health nursing. "Fitness for me has always been a big release for my mental health and a way of putting problems to one side - it really does help. Also, as a personal trainer I care for my clients and am always there to listen. Obviously it's very different to nursing but it has a similar ethos."
Sam has become a passionate advocate for mental health issues and in the future would like to explore ways he can bring his interests in fitness and mental health together to help people. He also is very keen to work with children and adolescents and support them with their mental health, to give them coping strategies which will stand them in good stead if problems escalate in later years.
The mental health nursing degree is a mixture of traditional study in subjects such as anatomy and pharmacology, and hands on experience, through several work placements. Following a six week placement in January, Sam was offered paid work in a private mental health hospital and has been working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, which he described as a very enlightening, albeit challenging experience.
"The hospital put in place very strict safety procedures and segregated wards to prevent the virus spreading," he explained. "It was definitely strange, but you just get on with the task in hand and put the patients first. I feel very fortunate that my mind was kept busy through this time."
After starting his university journey through Clearing, Sam said he's definitely on the right path. "I love coming to Kingston. I love the location and I'm really fortunate to have gained work experience through my course. It has opened my mind and my eyes - seeing how nurses and organisations have adapted to the pandemic and still put patients at the heart of their care."
"My advice to anyone going through Clearing is to just go for it - do the applications, pick up the phone. Just think to yourself, you've got nothing to lose," he added.
Anne Ambridge, course lead for mental health nursing at Kingston University, praised Sam's positive approach and willingness to volunteer his help. "Sam is a passionate advocate for mental health nursing," she said. "He brings lots of transferable skills from his previous work experiences which he is happy to share with his peers and clients in practice. We are absolutely delighted to have him on the course."