I have been nursing since 1990 and qualified as an Registered Mental Health Nurse in 1996, I am approaching 30 years in the profession and have worked in all areas of mental health and learning disabilities in that time, at all grades up to my present position.
I have experienced an immense variety of clinical situations and worked alongside some truly remarkable and inspirational people, I have seen people coming into the world and sadly a great many leaving it, with all the tragedies and triumphs that lie between. I can remember a lot of tears but also a lot of laughter as well, brought by a career that provides a thousand lives worth of experience in one.
As a nurse I have been in that privileged and trusted place where people in their most vulnerable state look to us for help, and being able to do so gives me immense pride in my life. A profession with true and honourable purpose, tradition and passion tasked with helping those in the most need at their most vulnerable, what greater feeling of accomplishment can there be than knowing you have contributed to humankind in this way?
Whenever my own life ends I know I will be satisfied in knowing that I had that purpose and made that mark. To refer to myself as a nurse is my single greatest achievement in life and the thing that I am, and always will be, the most proud of.
I have to honest about nursing – in 1984 I had just quit my A levels and got a job processing numerical data at what was then Dowty Rotol. It was clear to me, after 3 months, that this was a well-paid but lifeless role! Put it this way, if a “word” rather than a set of numbers appeared in the data, it was a highlight!
I immediately began to seek other work but there was little opportunity in the 1980’s. My ambition at that time, as a 20 year old, was to get a job in Ravel’s (a very stylish shoe shop at the time) or be a hair stylist! Neither of which happened for me! So, in desperation to escape the boredom after 3 years, I saw a job advert in the local job centre for Student Psychiatric Nurses at the Gloucester School of Nursing. I applied, was interviewed, and offered a place to train for 3 years.
My parents were quite mystified. “You can’t do that” said my Mum, “you’re too glamourous!”. My Dad had just wanted me to go to Art College so he was also puzzled.
However, I found the training to be inspiring and fascinating and found I had an aptitude for communicating and caring. Despite this, my thoughts on becoming a Registered Mental Health Nurse were that once my training had finished, I would find something else to pursue as this was just a stop gap.
Here we are 35 years on and I have had a career of amazing opportunities to make a difference to the lives of not only people who use mental health services but also the colleagues that I have had the opportunity to work with, and sometimes lead. From a newly qualified mental health nurse in a recovery home, to a deputy ward manager, a practice development nurse, a research nurse, a team leader, a non-medical prescriber, a ward manager, a service manager, a mental health liaison nurse, and a clinical improver – not to mention the chance to study at degree and later masters level. I also spent 3 months volunteering in a Transylvanian Psychiatric Facility in Romania in 1993 but that’s a whole different story…
What’s not to like about nursing? It’s a fabulous career for the curious!
Acting Team Manager, West Locality Managing Memory 2gether Service
“I fell into nursing in my early 20s but despite this I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. There are definitely hard days in my job but the reward from being able to make a difference, even the smallest, in someone’s life far outweighs the challenges of the job.”
Serious Incident Investigator
“Being a nurse has allowed me to go from providing care and treatment to some of our most vulnerable and unwell patients within the acute settings, to my current role of serious incident investigator, where I now have an opportunity to make recommendations to improve patient care across the trust.”
“With two other colleagues I am currently involved in a pilot project exploring innovative ways for our Trust to greater support Primary Care. It has proved to be a great opportunity personally; challenging at times, but a pleasure to work with dynamic, focused colleagues. We know that it is valued by our GP colleagues and crucially patients, and it is important that we continue to further develop and demonstrate the heights that we, as a profession, are clinically capable of.”
This year will be my 30th year in the NHS, I am still proud to be a nurse.
In August 1989 I commenced my psychiatric nurse training at Rubery Hill Hospital in Birmingham, an old asylum opened on 4th January 1882, built on a 151 acre site.
I was so proud to work there, I loved the building, the community it created and the staff relationships. The most important thing was to understand about the people admitted there. Back then some patients had been in institutions for most of their lives, tragically because they had epilepsy, had given birth to children born out of wedlock, or were “shell shocked” from their experiences of the war. For those people the hospital was their home, we were their family and we were the only people to care for them.
Others were admitted from the local community by their GP, experiencing symptoms of depression, schizophrenia and mood disorders, I wanted to help, I wanted to make people feel better about themselves and mostly to be able to go back home.
The wards were big, up to 21 beds on each, working age adult, psychiatric intensive care, rehabilitation, older people and dementia wards, and a dedicated nurse training school. Alongside the hospital there was a 40 bedded nurses home, hospital social club, canteen, chapel, hospital magazine and a nursery for the staff’s children. A whole community was created.
Older nurses shared stories of how the hospital had been run, how their practice had changed and how nursing was changing. I learnt there and then change was inevitable in the NHS.
At the end of my 3 years of nurse training, I had to sit a 3 hour final exam and a multiple choice paper. To qualify as a nurse was dependant on passing the exam. Thankfully I passed.
I worked as a staff nurse at Rubery Hill hospital until it was closed in 1993, it was the end of an era but it was also the start of a new one. A new hospital was built, it was in the middle of town next to the general hospital, it was integrated into the community, not kept on the outskirts. These changes had a huge impact on the patients and staff and how the community viewed psychiatric hospitals.
My career as a nurse has been diverse, challenging, exciting and at times unpredictable. I have worked in working age adult, child and adolescent, older people, regional secure forensic inpatient wards and acute day units.
Today I am Ward Manager, I manage people, budgets, environments, targets, incidents, policies and change but primarily I am still a nurse who cares for patients and their families. I have learnt more about myself from the people I have looked after and the people I have worked with than from anywhere else. It is important for me to know that I can still offer support, I can make a difference, I can help recovery, I can ensure people know that I care and they matter and now I can support other nurses to do the same. This has kept me coming to work every day for the last 30 years.
I heard at a conference recently “if there were no nurses, there would be no NHS” nurses are crucial to providing not just patient care but good, compassionate patient care.
I began my nursing service in 1978 when I moved to Hereford to undertake my general nursing training. I wanted to train in psychiatry at that point but, at the age of 18, my dad didn’t feel I was old enough or had enough life experience. Looking back, I think that was a good call from him and my general nursing training and experience is still very pertinent to my nursing role. I trained at the Hereford School of Nursing – old fashioned style training which stands me in good stead today.
Having qualified, I worked in theatres for four years which I enjoyed very much. Theatres is quite a closed area so the importance of relying on your team was paramount. I gained skills there which I was able to apply to some of my other nursing roles such as Infection control, dressings and ECT recovery.
Having small children and being an army wife meant that regular work was difficult and so I joined a nursing agency to pick up work when I could and to “keep my hand in”, like many thousands of nurses today with young children.
In 1996 – some 18 years after my initial wish, I returned to Worcester University to complete my Registered Mental Health Nurse training. I worked for a short time in working age adults and then moved to Bromyard to a Dementia Respite Unit. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, I enjoy working with older people as I love learning social history from their accounts of their lives and experiences. On one occasion I remember a lady in her 90s telling me of the Great War. I asked if her brothers had been called up but they were in a protected occupation – but she remembered the horses from their farm being taken. I have many of these anecdotes over my nursing time. What other job would give such rich experiences?
During that time, any patients coming into respite who proved to be very mentally unwell were transferred to Cantilupe ward which I found intriguing- how did Cantilupe ward look after these older people with physical and mental ill health? At the earliest opportunity I applied for a post on the ward and still, on the whole, look forward to going to work on this busy, diverse ward with a great team of people. Cantilupe fulfils my interest in both physical health nursing and mental health nursing and my other keen interest in social history. The patients I meet on a daily basis have led such rich and varied lives, it is truly an honour and privilege to meet them and for our team to be entrusted with their care at a vulnerable time in their lives.
My role as ward manager involves recruitment, budgeting, HR work and staff supervision, so in some ways takes me away from direct time with patients. Cantilupe has a mix of general and mental health nurses helping the team to deliver holistic care to our patients. We all have skills and knowledge to bring and all learn from each other. I hope that with my background in both nursing fields I bring that support to the team. I am very proud of being a nurse and very proud of the team on Cantilupe.