So as it’s Nurses Day I thought I would share some experiences from a variety of different nurses, and nursing students about their experiences that expand their career and their thoughts and feelings around the nursing profession! I would like to thank Jo, Lynn, Abby, Allison and Shaun for being a part of this.

I created two questionnaires that were similar but each fitting for a qualified nurse and for a student. I loved reading the answers and learning from everyone’s all rounded experiences but I realised one this that they all had in common. They all have passion for nursing!

First we have Jo. She is a Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at DMU. I remember my first lot of lectures with Jo and how much I learnt. I always know it’s going to be a good lecture with her as I live the way she incorporates interactive learning!

What made you want to become a nurse?

I was actually studying Theatre Studies and was planning on becoming a Drama and English teacher but I played a character who had a diagnosis of Schizophrenia in the play Mary Barnes (by David Edgar) and began to research Schizophrenia for the role. This led to a fascination in the experience of psychosis. At around the same time, I also experienced some significant personal loss which made me question my life path and core beliefs about the world around me and my place in the world – this was the catalyst for me wanting to do something more proactive with my life to help those experiencing mental health illness and distress. I’m not sure I really wanted to be a nurse at that point, I just wanted to be able to work in mental health but I applied and was accepted in to Mental Health Nursing and have never looked back.

What made you choose your field of practice?

My interest in psychosis led to me applying for mental health nursing. Retrospectively, this was by far the best option for me. I am a firm believer in the “art of nursing” which is grounded in the ability to forge therapeutic relationships with people. I thoroughly love that aspect of the job – getting to know someone, what makes them tick, helping them to identify their strengths (because everyone has them, but sometimes we need them pointed out and support in bolstering them) and then supporting them through their recovery journey. It’s a privilege to be a part of that.

What was your first job as a newly qualified?

I was a D Grade staff nurse on a mixed gender acute admissions ward.

Have you taken part in any postgraduate education? What influenced your decision on this?

I was very fortunate to be supported to a great ward manager as a D grade staff nurse who saw my potential and put me forward for a funded Masters (MA) in Community Mental Health and Recovery. Following this I have been supported to undertake the mentorship programme, various leadership and management courses, the non-medical prescribing programme, and teaching qualifications. I am currently studying for my doctorate which I hope to submit this year. Health care and service delivery is constantly changing and we have to be prepared for the emerging challenges, so it’s incredibly important that we ensure that we engage with post-graduate training and education to ensure we are able to meet the challenges of contemporary practice.

Is there a job or service that you wish you worked in – but haven’t?

No. I have had very varied experience. If I have wanted to work in a particular area, I have found opportunities to facilitate that.

What previous job roles have you had?

Staff Nurse (D and E grades)– Adult Acute mental health admissions

F Grade Deputy Ward Manager – Adult Acute mental health admissions

Band 6 Community Mental Health Nurse in Case Management / Community Mental Health Team (covering generic Community Mental Health and Peri-natal services)

Band 6 Assertive Outreach worker

Band 6 Early Intervention in Psychosis Worker

Deputy Team manager – Early Intervention Services

Acting Team manager – Early Intervention Services

Senior lecturer in Mental Health Nursing (inc. Subject Lead in Mental Health, Co-programme Leader and Programme Leader)

What made you decide to go into your current job role?

I always enjoyed working with students as a mentor in practice and supporting their learning and development. I was invited to do some guest lecturing at the local University when I was a clinician and thoroughly enjoyed more formal teaching. I also had an honorary contract with another local University and this gave me some research exposure, so academia became an option for me.

I also had occasions where I became quite disillusioned in practice and felt that I could not make the changes that I saw needed to be made on my own. I hope that teaching our nurses of the future means that I can have a greater impact on making positive changes to the culture of nursing and health care. I feel I can do more good in this role than I ever had the ability to do as a lone wolf.

What is something that you wish others knew about nursing?

The public perception about nursing – what we do and who we are is outdated. We don’t float along carrying lamps and mopping the brows of those we care for. We are not the handmaids of Doctors. The role of the nurse has changed significantly over the years. Nursing requires high levels of clinical and technical competence, critical thinking and the ability to make sound decisions, as well as the ability to engage in compassionate relationships.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a career in nursing?

Get some experience. Organise some work (voluntary or paid) in a health care environment. You can’t appreciate the demands of the profession until you experience it. The experience will also help you make a decision about which Field of Practice you want to work within.

Other than that – go for it!

Secondly we have Allison. She is a senior lecturer in adult nursing and also program leader in practice nursing and co-lead in the new 2020 nursing program along with the MSc in nursing here at DMU. Allison is a very knowledgeable lady when it comes to nursing.

What made you want to become a nurse?

I kind of fell into nursing really, I worked as a care assistant in a residential home from the age of 15, I would work evenings and weekends helping the residents by doing their laundry, making their teas and some aspects of personal care. I continued to do this whilst I studied for my A ‘levels in Art and History. Art was always my passion and I originally wanted to pursue this, however I realised that I was not good enough to make a living out of it so I considered other options. From the age of 18 -21 I worked full time in nursing homes and enjoyed having a wage to spend on holidays, clothes and going out. Whilst I was figuring out what I wanted to do I worked with an inspirational woman who was a registered nurse and she told me I had the qualities to make a good nurse too. I had never believed I could before meeting this nurse, her belief in me and her support in applying for a place at nursing school started me on this path.

What made you choose your field of practice?

I chose Adult nursing because this was my experience so far, I had no interest in working with children, and I really didn’t know much about mental health or learning disabilities.

What was your first job as a newly qualified?

My first job was in an Emergency Medical Unit(EMU), it was very much like MAU is these days, we took medical patients direct from A&E and GP referrals, we cared for people with a wide spectrum of medical problems, respiratory, cardiac, gastro, overdoses, stroke and infections so this was a really good place to start my career as it gave me a broad knowledge of how to care for people suffering from a wide range of conditions.

Have you taken part in any postgraduate education? What influenced your decision on this?

When I qualified in 1999, my qualification was Diploma in H.E. with NMC registration, not many people did a degree course back then. I truly did not believe I was academically good enough to do a degree. Over the next few years I completed many courses which were required for the posts I held and some were academically credited at degree level. Then in 2008 I started my degree, I was working as a practice nurse and wanted to specialise in this area so I undertook a BSC (hons) Specialist Practitioner Qualification in General Practice. I absolutely loved it, probably because I was able to study an area of practice I was passionate about. I also surprised myself by getting a 2:1 in my degree, something which I did not think was possible, it just shows that you can achieve if you work hard and have a desire to do well. Then I continued to undertake further vocational training courses for my job, completing a Spirometry course with ARTP registration and various other professionally recognised courses. In 2014, I had been a visiting lecturer at DMU attending as a practice expert and the opportunity came up to complete my PGCert in HE which is the equivalent of a teaching certificate. I absolutely thrived on this course, it was such a transformational experience for me, I learnt where I had been going wrong in my own academic studies, why my best essays were only ever in the 60-70 grade band and most importantly, what was expected of me as a student. I really had never had this communicated to me before, I had a “penny drop” moment and realised that the reason I could not get higher grades for my essays is because I had never learned the mechanics of how to write in academic style and how to structure an essay, I learned to answer the “so what” in my work and my grades immediately increased. I am really proud of the work I completed on this course, in one assessment I got 100%, well that was such a confidence boost, I look back now and think, did I do that? I then went on to complete my Masters in Education, graduating in 2018 with a distinction. I am now planning to start my PHD next year. My journey through education has certainly been transformational, if you’d have asked me 20 years ago if I could see myself as a lecturer in the future, I would have laughed in your face, but education does change you, in a way that makes you not want to go back.

Is there a job or service that you wish you worked in – but haven’t?

No, I worked the majority of my career in general practice so I got to see and deal with almost everything. I worked with all age groups and all fields of practice, I saw acute and chronic disease and I worked with an extremely diverse group of patients. I consider myself very lucky.

What previous job roles have you had?

Staff nurse – Emergency Medical Unit

Senior Staff nurse – Acute Medical Unit

Sister – Acute Medical Unit

Nurse Advisor – General practice – private sector

Nurse Manager – general Practice – private sector

Practice Nurse

Lead Practice Nurse

Practice Nurse Manager

What made you decide to go into your current job role?

DMU started to provide a practice nursing programme of study for nurses new to general practice in 2012 and I was invited to teach on the programme. I love teaching and after completing my teaching qualification in 2014 I took a part time role at DMU where I worked 2 days/week here and 2 days/week in clinical practice. Then in 2016 a permanent full time position became available and I applied. I figured that I had another 25 years left to work and I quite fancied taking my career in a different direction. I am passionate about teaching, I am passionate about practice nursing and I love what I do.

What is something that you wish others knew about nursing?

I wish people knew about the journey of personal growth you go on when you are a nurse. I came from a very poor background where the kids form my estate did not go to university, they went to prison. Nursing saved me from following that path and has changed the future for me and my child. I feel like nursing helped me to break the cycle and taught me so much about myself. If you stop and think about the planet and the time we have here, it is a really short amount of time, spend your time wisely and make a positive difference while you are here. Working for a bank, makes the bank richer, working for a factory, makes the factory bosses richer but working as a nurse makes people’s lives richer, including yours! That’s what it is all about; people.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a career in nursing?

Do it! 3 years of education and training goes so fast! Before you know it you’ll be qualifying and starting the next leg of your journey.

Next we have Lynn. I met Lynn through my first placement at a recovery event that I visited. I remember her having lots of energy and feeling very motivated! I then met her again on my last placement when I attended some motivational interviewing training, and she was just as inspiring! Lynn is so passionate about her work, and it is clearly seen when you talk to her. Also, Lynn is a doctor nurse!

What made you want to become a nurse?

Because I wanted to make a difference and bring hope into people’s lives who had mental health conditions so that they could live well. To have a better quality of life than they were often experiencing as a result of their mental health condition and being labelled as such which was causing stigma and discrimination.

What made you choose your field of practice?

Because I value relationships with people and I knew that mental health nursing was about how you related to people, how you helped and supported them emotionally as well as physically which was missing for me if I had of chosen physical health nursing. What is interesting about the titles of nursing back then was that (and its still does) RMN means Registered Mental Nurse (Not mental health nurse) and RGN meant Registered General Nurse.

What was your first job as a newly qualified?

I became a Staff Nurse in a nursing agency working with people with terminal cancer as I could not get a job when I qualified as there were no posts for newly qualified staff. This was during the time in 1983 that funding was diverted into creating a management structure in the NHS which had not existed before. I learned a lot about end of life care and conversations working in the community.

Have you taken part in any postgraduate education? What influenced your decision on this?

Yes I have a masters in Organisational Development and a Doctorate in Business Administration. I decided to do this because I wanted to be a better manager than the one I had previously worked for who caused me to leave the NHS for 15 years because of the way the person treated me. I did not feel valued or heard. I wanted to find a better way to lead, to value, to grow and collaborate meaningfully with staff by creating the right culture and climate to help them be the best that they could be rather than undervaluing and silencing them. I wanted to understand how I could apply academic knowledge into practice to improve mine and others practice in mental health and substance misuse care delivery and recovery. I also wanted to know how I could improve the working climate and environments for those delivering care facing often difficult emotional situations every day in their work. How people were supported by leaders and managers and how they could improve their practice was also of real interest to me as so many nurses were reporting negative experiences.

Is there a job or service that you wish you worked in – but haven’t?

I have worked outside of the NHS running my own business for 15 years before coming back into the NHS again. I have been privileged to have travelled all over the world with my work, speaking at conferences and working in other countries so I feel very fulfilled in my work. I would love to work in Australia or speak at a conference there on recovery and wellbeing as it’s a very progressive country with this agenda.

What previous job roles have you had?

Too many to mention! I have always been a nurse and am proud to still be registered! In practice I have worked in substance misuse services for over 20 years besides from mental health services. I have mainly worked within community services. I have worked for national charities in regional and director roles primarily running substance misuse and homeless services in particular prescribing and rehabilitation. I have been a business consultant and a change agent redesigning four major integrated substance misuse services in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan and West Sussex. I have worked as a commissioner heading up Drug and Alcohol Action Teams. I am a trainer for Motivational Interviewing and have been since 2003 and am a member of the international Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers.

What made you decide to go into your current job role?

I came to LPT in a temporary interim service manager role and after 6 months the role was advertised as the previous Head of Service left for promotion. I liked the services and working with great staff in MHSOP so decided to apply for the role permanently and felt ready to come back to the NHS again after 15 years. I was successful.

What is something that you wish others knew about nursing?

How amazing it is every day to work with passionate and dedicated people who are trying to deliver good services under difficult circumstances financially in the NHS. Mental Health Nursing is relational work first and foremost supported by skills and technical ability depending on what path you take. You can make a big meaningful impact in people’s lives as a mental health nurse if you really listen well to understand and then really learn to shape your conversations to support people to live well with their conditions and potentially recover to live a good life.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a career in nursing?

Do it! I am still a Mental Health Nurse first and foremost after 36 years.

Next I have some inspirational students that I have come across on twitter and in the real world!

I came across Abby on Twitter. She has an amazing story and she is so passionate about her training. She also is a leader of The Student Nurse Project (StNurseProject). She is a third year student mental health nurse at the university of Essex.

What made you decide to become a nurse? Personal experience of my own mental health as a child and through working in a primary school doing the pastoral care I released that I was not trained well enough to support the emotional wellbeing of the kids I worked with and through watching my Mum and Nan being nurses was an inspiration.

 

Do you know what area you would like to work in when you qualify? Why?

I’d love to go community, that’s where my passion lies.  

  

What area would you like to work in – but have no experience of?

Ooo good question, perinatal mental health probably  

 

What has been the highlight of your training so far?

SO MANY HIGHLIGHTS, I don’t think I can decide on one single moment as the highlight, I think it’s probably every time I do something independently and release that I did it well or when you do a drug round and release you knew most of the drugs. It’s all the little moments, when you realise how far you’ve come. Also nursing has given me SO MANY opportunities, meeting world class researchers, making a difference to peoples lives, writing articles, meeting amazing friends, working in jails, going to parliament, learning more than I ever thought I could!

 

 

What has been the toughest part of your training?

Finances, not being able to afford clothes for a smart casual placement, not being able to celebrate a friends birthday because I can’t afford a sandwich doubt a night out, not being able to afford petrol to get to university but yet working so hard, full time at placement.

 

 

What has surprised you the most since starting your training?

My own strength. How much I can cope with, how much I can learn and take in, how much I’ve learnt about myself through doing the degree.

 

 

Would you consider postgraduate education? Why?

YES 100% if I didn’t have to save up to move out I’d go straight into postgraduate education, I love learning , I’ve loved doing this degree, and I would love to go on and do postgraduate education

 

 

What is something that you wish people knew about nursing?

I wish people saw how much responsibility nurses have and I wish people knew that student nurses don’t get paid even though we have to work full time!

 

What piece of advice would you give to someone considering a career in nursing?

It’s the hardest thing you’ll do but it’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. You’ll learn new things about yourself, you’ll grow as a person and you’ll develop not only nursing skills but life skills.

Last but definitely not least we have Shaun. Shaun is a second year student learning disability nurse at Keele University. I first met Shaun last year at an NHS England conference around Men in Nursing and Changing Perceptions. He spoke about his journey in nursing and spoke about more information to do with learning disability nursing. He was very inspiring and made me want to know more about learning disability!

What made you decide to become a nurse?

 It was a cumulative process. To begin with I have strong memories of hospitals and nursing staff in a positive light [I spent a lot of time in hospital as a child]. I have always had an interest in other people and social justice. During my school years I would never have considered nursing as a career option. What changed was that during my teens my grandfather developed Alzheimer’s disease and after a period of directionless in my twenties I ended up working with people with dementia. In short, I discovered where I wanted and needed to be.

 

A desire to do more for and with people that me to start to address the issues that I had experienced in education and as such I undertook an Access Course. This I successfully completed but I did not have the confidence to apply to university during that year. Enter my older brother. Sensing that I was at risk of becoming somewhat directionless again encourage me to apply to university through clearing.

 

It’s important to note that I initially never applied to do learning disability nursing. I was completely unaware of the field. It was only through a discussion with a student on the interview day that drew my attention to this area of practice. Here it was confirmed that I wanted to work in a very human rights based, and values driven way with people centre of practice; and if I could tackle social and health inequalities alongside this – I would feel fulfilled.

 

Do you know what area you would like to work in when you qualify? Why?

 To be perfectly honest, no I don’t. I am very much compelled by the current international and national drivers within healthcare and would love to be at the forefront of these holistic primary-care led, community-based, health and wellbeing facilitation with a focus on health promotion [which by the way I feel is the natural habitat of the contemporary learning disability nurse]. But so far during my studies I have found learning opportunities limited: with primary care services reluctant to engage with a student in my nursing field; and I have yet to formally experience any specific learning disability nursing placements within services that do this type of work [i.e. they have not appeared on my placement schedule].

 

 

What area would you like to work in – but have no experience of?

 I think I’ve touched upon that in the previous question. What I would add though is that I am a Universalist and feel that healthcare should be for all. As such I would be quite happy working within primary care, especially general practice, so that I could support the needs of the whole community – regardless of whether somebody has additional needs or not. I am always aware that people with learning disabilities and their families are disproportionately affected by health inequalities and forever mindful that there is a real need for passionate and energised practitioner within specialist services.

 

 

What has been the highlight of your training so far?

This is a tough one. I’d say the highlight has been getting to know several people and their families very well and being granted the privilege be accepted by them somebody who it is on their side [too often people with additional needs are marginalised].

 

One experience that will remain with me is a home visit I did with a portage team. The interaction and educational play with that child and family really had a profound effect on me. For the duration of that those parents whose role had largely been one heavily informed by caring for the health needs of their son was transformed into one where they could just be themselves for hour and enjoy the moment [allowing them to be them].

 

What has been the toughest part of your training?

 I have SpLDs [dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD] myself so the very act of studying can often be filled with frustrations. The workload and time pressures are often very difficult to manage but I seem to muddle along.

 

The worries around my future career direction and destination are also a tough aspect of my training.

 

What has surprised you the most since starting your training?

 Personally: that I have been able to stick at it. My track record in education has not been great [for instance I didn’t have GCSEs until I was twenty-six].

 

Professionally: that people and families can be  that strong and resilient. They are an inspiration.

 

Would you consider postgraduate education? Why?

Yes. I have, and I think for all learning disability nurses it is essential. That is not to say that on the whole that postgraduate education is needed because they lack knowledge or skills it is more in the spirit of fact the field should be one based upon expertise and excellence.

 

Having said this I do feel that all members of LD and Autism workforce should have some form of in-depth primary care health assessment type training which they may not experience in a systematic and detailed at undergraduate level.

 

What is something that you wish people knew about nursing?

 That learning disability nursing is a thing and agent for positive change within society and healthcare [aimed at both the general public and other nursing fields].

 

What piece of advice would you give to someone considering a career in nursing?

 Just do it. It will develop your character and change you as person. It is hard to describe the transformation that takes place but once started you won’t regret it.

Again I want to say thank you to these wonderful people for sharing their passions, their knowledge and experience with me and letting me share that with the world!! You are all fantastic nurses!