To celebrate International Nurses Day on 12 May, we’ve spoken to USW student Maximus Aeon, a mental health support worker who will start his degree course in Mental Health Nursing at USW this September.
The 37-year-old, who is about to complete his CertHE (Certificate of Higher Education) in Health Care Nursing Support Worker Education, said that returning to education meant overcoming huge challenges.
Having been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) as an adult, Maximus initially had to re-learn how to approach many aspects of the course, including writing assignments, reading text books and even staying focused during lectures.
“I have lived in lots of different countries and so I moved schools a lot,” said Maximus, who lives in Cardiff Bay with his fiancée Stavroula.
“I experienced school in Greece, the UK and the US, teachers could not figure me out, and I was becoming a disruptive student. Looking back, I realise that my struggle to get on with learning could have been because of my ADHD.”
Having started working in healthcare five years ago, Maximus met a dementia patient who inspired him to follow his dream of becoming a nurse.
“One lady I was caring for at a nursing home in the Midlands actually changed my life,” he said.
“I used to give her one-to-one care, and as a result I got to know her well. She would suffer from massive psychotic episodes, and after years of working alongside nurses in the sector, the role appealed to me, and so I decided to apply for the CertHE at USW.
“I knew I wanted to understand more about what happens in a patient’s brain when they suffer with mental health issues, so before starting the course, I read as much as I could about different aspects of this nursing specialism – including neurology, psychology and even law, as many mental health patients are sectioned under the Mental Health Act.”
During his preparation for university, Maximus met Stavroula – his now partner – who is a psychologist and psychotherapist. She helped him understand the areas of research linking nursing and mental health care, and how psychology is used as an observational tool for the treatment of mental health patients.
As part of the two-year, part-time CertHE course, Maximus has completed several placements in specialist care settings, including Heatherwood Court, a low security hospital in Pontypridd which offers treatment and rehabilitation for men and women on a forsensic mental health care pathway.
“A huge part of caring for patients at Heatherwood is through communication, promoting self-care and supporting them in building their confidence and self-belief,” he added.
“We aim to rehabilitate patients so that they are able to return to community care settings.”
As he nears the end of his course, Maximus is looking forward to starting his degree in Mental Health Nursing at USW. He would also like to study a Masters in Neuroscience in the future.
“My dream is to work in specialist psychiatric care, such as in a mental health hospital, or in a medium to high security setting, for example in a prison. I’d also love to work in a children’s mental health institution, because I believe that we can help prevent mental health problems by working with young children, before their adolescent years.”
Maximus was recently nominated by his tutors in the annual USW Nursing and Midwifery Student and Mentor Excellence Awards, recognising his inspirational commitment to learning.
“When I got the email to say I’d been nominated, I assumed it had been sent by mistake,” he said.
“I couldn’t believe that my tutors had said such lovely things about me! But honestly, if it wasn’t for the support I received from everyone at USW – especially my personal tutor, Dr Steve Walden, and my Study Skills tutor, Jane Kent – I could never have done it.
“If you believe in yourself and are passionate about caring for people and helping them during their darkest moments, then nothing will stop you achieving your goal of becoming a nurse.”