21st February 2021
We’re celebrating Mental Health Nurses Day on Sunday 21st February by talking to some of our own nurses from across the Trust who tell us why they got into the profession, what they love and about it and what they’d say to anyone looking to become a mental health nurse.
When Debra started nursing, Bryan Adams was number 1 in the charts with Everything I Do.
30 years later and this nurse has taken on everything from early intervention in psychosis to street triage to liaison and diversion. As part of those nursing roles she has been in several different settings such as schools, police stations, courts, prisons, traditional mental health centres, GP practices and of course people’s own homes.
She now works within the patient safety team as a serious incident reviewer and although it’s not a traditional hands-on nursing role, she feels strongly that patient safety has a role in improving services for patients, staff and carers.
Debra said: “When I was 18 years old I applied for a job in a nursing home as a care assistant looking after people who were experiencing dementia, and I loved it!
“I actually applied for general nursing at the same time as mental health nursing, but realised very quickly that I like to listen to people; I have a real interest in what makes people into who they are and I like to give people hope.
“I didn’t know anyone who had been a mental health nurse at all, but the more I read the more curious I became. So I went for an interview in 1991 and was thrilled to be accepted on the nursing course.
“In mental health nursing I love the privilege of working with patients who allow you be a part of their lives and allow you to help them despite often being in very difficult circumstances or emotional pain. I love seeing people improve in their health and my favourite thing is watching people become so empowered that they don’t need you as much or they just don’t need you at all!”
What would Debra say to anyone thinking about becoming a mental health nurse?
“Every single day I learn something new and if this sounds exciting then this is the role for you. If you want more than just a Monday to Friday ‘9 to 5’ and if you want a job where you are emotionally engaged and can work in different places, then mental health nursing is for you.”
Coming from a long line of nurses, it was almost inevitable that Mandy would have her own career in nursing.
But it was being brought up in a kind-hearted community where people helped others suffering hardship that made her want to make a difference to the lives of others.
She has been doing the job she loves for over 35 years and is now team manager for Stockton early intervention in psychosis and psychosis teams.
Mandy said: “I love working with our patients and their families, supporting them to reach their goals. I really do feel it’s a privilege that people allow us into their lives at what is quite often the most difficult time they have faced. We should never forget that.
“I have met the most amazing resilient people merely by the fact that I’m a nurse. Being afforded the opportunity to learn from people with lived experience has been wonderful and has taught me we still have so much to do. I’m thankful that I can be part of developing our services together for the future based on this learning.”
What would Mandy say to anyone thinking about becoming a mental health nurse?
“I would firstly ask you to think about the reasons why you are considering mental health nursing. If you truly believe you have the right the values and you want to learn something new every day, then this is the job for you. A profession that will make you feel good inside when you see and hear the improvements that your patients have made with your help. A career that is diverse, rewarding and ever changing.”
After a successful career in the armed forces that spanned more than two decades, Shane’s transition to civilian life was less successful.
With every intention of going into the project management field, unfortunately the emotional and financial strain of unsuccessful job interviews took its toll, and Shane came to the realisation that he had to change his career path.
After a number of temporary jobs, he came across a support worker role working with Armed Forces veterans and ex-offenders.
He said: “Due to my own negative experiences I knew how bad things can get and how quickly it can start to impact on your life in general and especially your mental health. I went for the job to see what it was about and was really pleased to be offered the role. I‘ve never looked back, within a week of starting the job I knew my future was in health and social care.”
After a few more roles in social care Shane made the move to the NHS and now works in forensic learning disabilities services at Ridgeway, Roseberry Park. He is now on an apprenticeship with the Trust studying to be a mental health nurse.
“Not only am I passionate about healthcare but I am also very empathic to the situation many people face, as I encountered a lot of challenges myself to get to where I am today.”
What would Shane say to anyone thinking about becoming a mental health nurse?
“If you are thinking about it you have probably already made up your mind, but not sure what is involved. You could get a job in the sector to find out more and you will soon realise the rewards and how you can be the one to help people change their lives with a little support.”
After 35 years of service, Helen retired from mental health nursing in October 2020, only to return one month later!
Helen said: “Retiring was very strange, as I never thought I ever would. I rarely took two weeks off in 36 years, so being off for a month was a revelation to me. I surprised all my family by taking to it like a duck to water, despite being so restricted due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.”
Helen now works in a new role as a community psychiatric nurse prescriber within services for older people, but admits that it was never a lifetime ambition to become a nurse.
She said: “Even with several years’ experience in the Red Cross, including some work in my local hospital, I never wanted to be nurse. I think my career aspirations were somewhat limited to an air hostess or a nun. The former as I loved traveling even at a young age and the latter as I was brought up Catholic.
“However, one day at Stockton Job centre I saw a job to train as a psychiatric nurse and there was just something about it that appealed to me.”
Helen is still driven by a thirst for knowledge around the profession and of course the many patients she has cared for over the years, and admits that the best part of the job is definitely the patients.
What would Helen say to anyone thinking about becoming a mental health nurse?
“If you like people and like to be challenged then this is the job for you.”
Find out more about working for us and view our current nursing vacancies.