Mental Health Nursing: Skill sessions

While being in my Mental health nursing course, I have had to attend skill sessions to prepare me for my osce (objective structured clinical examination) test. Skill sessions are important for when you go out into practice and teach you the basic skills you will need for being a nurse.

What you will learn in the Skills Sessions

• Hand hygiene (How to clean them properly in a clinical setting)
• Blood pressure (How to take in manually)
• Temperature, pulse and respirations (This takes a lot of concentration)
• Administration of medicines (Always make sure you have the right patient)
• Urinalysis (How to analysis urine)
• End of life care (What you can do and what happens after)
• First aid skills (Burns, recovery position)
• Aseptic Non-touch technique (Keeping infection to minimum)
• Basic life support (CPR)
• Correct application of gloves and apron
• Person presentations, including uniform and hygiene


What to wear at a Skills Session

Black or navy joggers that are loose, not tight. You will realise that nursing trousers are not tight-fitting as to prevent harm, as sharp objects like medical needles may go through your trousers, but it is less likely to touch you if your trousers are loose. This also allows easy movement for when on the ward.

A white RGU nursing polo shirt which are cheap to buy from the RGU shop on Union Way at just £10.

White, black or navy trainers that are wipeable and not fabric as you want to keep your shoes clean but also, it is the same as the loose trousers. A needle is less like to go through your shoe if it is leather or a thick material that is not fabric.

No jewellery apart from a plain wedding band and two plain, small stud earrings. This is to help with infection control and jewellery can prevent you from cleaning all areas and harbour bacteria and infection.

No long nails. When looking at your palm, your nails should not be visible. This is to prevent scratching of the patient and microorganisms growing under your nails.

Hair must be up and off your collar.


When attending each skills session, you will need to dress how I have pointed out before and it will be checked at the beginning of each skills session. It is very important that you dress appropriately as you will be doing this from now on while on placement, in a ward and future jobs. It is easy to get into and soon enough becomes a routine. Don’t worry – you do not lose you individuality because your personality shines through, no matter what you wear.

The Skills Sessions

Before skills sessions, there will be information on Moodle (our online learning platform) that you will have to access so that you have an idea of what is going to happen during the class.

The rooms are set up like someone’s home, a ward single room or a ward 6 bed room. You will be told what you are learning, be checked that you are presented properly and then it all begins. You see a demonstration on what you are going to do and then you get to practice yourself.

One skills session that I think worried a lot of students was injections. You are given the packaging and everything you need. Step by step you go through everything with the lecturer. There is always someone there that you can ask for help. The way I learn best is watching once or twice and then doing it myself and slowly it becomes habit, so this way of learning is good for me. Not everyone is like this but take your time. Don’t be scared.

A lot of people were worried about the manual blood pressure but with practice and time, everyone is able to do it. Do not be discouraged. I still sometimes struggle to take manual blood pressure because I struggle to find pulses sometimes but that’s fine. Just take your time and stay calm. I keep trying until I am successful as I do not like leaving knowing I haven’t tried.

You may be wondering why we are learning hand hygiene. Doesn’t everyone know how to clean their hands? There is a certain way that you should clean your hands to make sure the risk of contamination and infection is reduced.

Learning how it feels to be the patient

Another skill session was about learning how it feels to be the patient. I feel that this lesson was very important because you never really know the struggles a patient has been through unless you have been through them yourself. Everyone had to take in a cardigan or jumper, a yoghurt, spoon, towel, tooth brush, toothpaste and face wipes. One person would pretend to be the patient that had one arm that would not cooperate, and the other person was the nurse assisting the patient.

First I tried to get the cardigan on ,  I had previously done this before as a carer. While being the patient I did not allow my right arm to be extended which caused great difficulty at first for the person trying to dress me. After a while you learn the patient’s strength and weaknesses and learn to adapt around them.

To learn more on how patients may feel with being unable to do what they want, the lecturers put a weight on our wrists and a band to restrict our elbow movement and goggles that restricted our vision. Not everyone is the same and there will be times that the body will not work how a patient wants it to. They may become frustrated but that is normal.


As well as weights and putting on clothes, we had to feed each other, brush each other’s teeth and wash each other’s faces. This is just some of the care that you will be doing on placement, but it will help you understand why someone may be refusing this care. It could be due to pride or from being embarrassed that they need the help that they are getting.

If during any of the sessions you aren’t sure of anything do not be afraid to ask for help. You can cause more harm by not asking for any help and doing things on your own. As a student, you are constantly learning so question as much things as you can. You are very limited to what you can do by yourself at first but with time you will be able to do it.
Thank you for reading this blog post and I hope this has helped your understanding of skill sessions.

Rebekah Chisholm

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