What does a typical day look like for you?
On a typical day on the Sunniside unit I would start with the medication round, this can take up to a few hours as many of my patients require encouragement and lots of reassurance before accepting medicines.
Meaningful activity is a huge part of ward life; the ward runs groups such as seated exercise, gardening, mindfulness and patient meetings to keep us all busy. We try to give patients time off the ward as much as possible so you might find us in the local supermarket, church or coffee shop from time to time.
I offer emotional support and advice to my patients who are having a hard time or to their families who are often having just as hard a time. Like all nurses working on hospital wards I have meetings to attend and paperwork to complete but I know how important it is to spend that extra bit of time listening.
One way I’ve made a difference as a nurse or midwife:
I’m consistently trying to raise awareness of mental illnesses and the stigma they attract is something I do at work and in my personal life. As a ward team we celebrate campaigns such as ‘Time to Change’ and ‘World Mental Health Day’ by hosting events for families, carers and staff.
I think in recent years, thanks to social media and celebrities speaking out, it has become more acceptable to talk about difficulties with your mental health. However, some illnesses still attract negative misperceptions, schizophrenia for example. Often the stigma and the isolation are more debilitating to a person than the illness itself, and this is something that we can change!
What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing & midwifery?
To anyone dubious or afraid to work on a mental health ward I would tell them how “normal” my patients (and staff) are, whatever “normal” means (1 in 4 of us will experience difficulties with our mental health in our lifetimes after all).
I would say that being yourself and allowing your own personality traits to shine through is your biggest asset as it allows you to form genuine bonds with patients which in turn could save their life. It is a very humbling moment when a patient feels they can approach you to tell you they are having thoughts that their life is not worth living. It is then rewarding to watch that same patient recover day by day until they are well enough to go home, knowing you helped them on that journey.
2020 is the Year of the Nurse and Midwife and throughout the year we will be celebrating the nursing and midwifery profession. Hearing from a variety of roles and recognising the fantastic work and care that goes into each day here at Gateshead Health NHS Trust.