Wendy’s story: following a passion for child mental health

Wendy’s story: following a passion for child mental health

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After more than a decade of working with children and young people, Wendy wanted to enhance her healthcare practice with a postgraduate degree. HETI Higher Education’s Master of Applied Mental Health Studies gave her the flexibility she needed to juggle shift work and follow her passion for child mental health.

By Wendy Aghdam, Clinical Nurse, Child Mental Health and Masters of Applied Mental Health Studies graduate.

I’ve worked in child and youth mental health services for over 10 years now. It’s so satisfying to see the impact of early interventions, knowing that I’ve made a difference. Kids are amazingly resilient and so much fun. They’re like mouldable balls of clay. I used to work with adults and wonder what their lives would be like if only they had received mental health care when they were kids.

Taking the next step

I’ve always been interested in learning more about child mental health, but whenever I looked into tertiary education, people would steer me towards a Graduate Diploma or Master of Nursing specialising in mental health. Most courses focus on inpatient mental health nursing for adults, but I wanted something that I could use in my work with children and parents.

It’s hard to find a postgraduate course that specialises in child mental health. There are lots of places that offer specific units or even a Graduate Certificate, but a Masters offering is quite rare. So when someone recommended the Masters of Applied Mental Health Studies at HETI Higher Education, I looked into the child and youth specialisation and thought yes, that’s exactly what I want to do.

At HETI Higher Education, you can gain your Graduate Certificate after one year, then come back and complete the Diploma and Masters when it suits you. That flexibility made it seem less overwhelming in the beginning, when I was looking at different options. I decided to do a couple of units at HETI Higher Education and as soon as I started, I knew I would keep going all the way to my Masters.

Flexible study with a practical approach

One of the greatest benefits of the course was that it didn’t just focus on understanding and assessing mental health problems, but also gave me the tools I needed to develop solutions. I knew I wanted to do more than just inpatient treatment or adult mental health, so I was pleased to see units that covered trauma and primary health too.

The course also has a strong multidisciplinary aspect. After all, in mental health no one works in a team of entirely nurses or social workers. So being able to study in a multidisciplinary environment is much more realistic and practical. It also gave me research skills to support an evidence-based approach to care, which is crucial.

While the course was online, the weekly web forums gave me a sense of being in a classroom connecting with like-minded people and learning about their experiences and challenges. I really learned a lot from that and took those lessons with me to work. The fact that it was online made it easier to juggle shift work and study too.

Advice for future students

Like many students, I was worried about the financial burden of postgraduate study. So I did some research and discovered there are a huge range of scholarships available. I received a significant amount of scholarship funding over a three-year period, and the application process was surprisingly easy. You can either do your own research, or ask a nurse educator for help. But it’s definitely worth a try.

I’d also encourage new students to set aside uninterrupted study blocks each week. It can be tempting to squeeze in half an hour here and there especially when you’re doing shift work but I found when I dedicated a few hours at a time to focus on my studies, I was able to be much more productive. It was as though I was going to class, but at a time that suited me.

If you’re not sure which postgraduate course is right for you, take the time to look at the units offered within the course. HETI Higher Education offers lots of electives in the Masters of Applied Mental Health Studies, which means you can focus on topics that interest you. The lecturers are also happy to tailor assessments according to your interests and needs.

I found it really beneficial to have that one-on-one communication with lecturers via the online platform or by email and phone. They were always happy to answer my questions and make everything as flexible and accessible as possible. It made me feel supported throughout my studies, which made all the difference.

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