Lauren Kennedy is Lead Nurse for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities with NHS 24. In this blog, she shares her ambition to highlight and combat health inequalities through continued learning, her positive professional attitude, and a desire to share knowledge.
Other people’s stories have always intrigued me. Coupled with my natural compassion I often found myself drawn into conversations about the health and wellbeing of others. It seemed from an early age that nursing was the obvious choice for me.
Not one to venture far from home, I became an eager student mental health nurse at The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) in 1997. With a varied range of clinical placements, my student experiences were influential and enriching. In one placement I observed elective plastic surgery. Although I loved seeing the before and after I was known as ‘a fainter’ – I’ve never really been great with blood and trauma! Some of my fondest student memories are of placements in Arrol Park and Hansel where I was delighted to learn from people with learning disabilities. These placements gave me valuable insight into the diverse and dynamic care provided for people with learning disabilities. I was encouraged by the unique range of flexible and innovative person-centred support.
I graduated as a Mental Health Nurse in February 2000, taking up a post in Ailsa Hospital in NHS Ayrshire and Arran. The Ward Sister was a nurse I admired and one of my earliest role models. Her combination of knowledge, skills, professionalism, and transformational leadership inspired me not to limit my own learning. I soon became a Community Mental Health Nurse where I facilitated brief interventions for people experiencing depression, anxiety, bereavement, and stress. This was followed by a nursing role at Parkhead Hospital in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. I facilitated treatment and provision of care in acute admissions. My next role was a Community Mental Health Nurse in Clydebank. I was privileged to support people with long term mental health issues, with a focus on promoting independence and recovery. With the wealth of experience behind me, I became one of the first Mental Health Charge Nurses in CAMHS to provide intensive interventions. This supported children, young people and their families to prevent hospital admission or facilitate early discharge.
As my career progressed, I was motivated to become a Practice Education Facilitator, in partnership with NHS Education for Scotland, The University of Glasgow, The University of the West of Scotland and Glasgow Caledonian University. I also spent time teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students was a privilege and reinforced my enthusiasm for learners. I was also able to contribute to ‘return to practice’ nursing programmes for mental health and learning disabilities. During this time, I facilitated mentorship within Health Visiting, District Nursing, School Nursing, CAMHS, Addictions and Mental Health. My time supporting Learning Disabilities nursing students on their clinical placements really stands out.
Who knew that I would be a lifelong learner? Next stop the Professional Doctorate?
My current post in NHS 24 has a national profile, as Lead Nurse for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, I feel extremely honoured to influence the strategic vision for the organisation whilst providing assurance that our care is delivered safely, effectively and is person-centred. I am a true believer in joy in work whilst ensuring staff resilience and wellbeing. The passion and commitment of my colleagues are humbling. I represent NHS 24 on the Scottish Learning Disability Nursing Leads Group and was thrilled to be part of our 100 years of Learning Disability Nursing celebrations. I have been working with the Excellence in Care Leads for Learning Disabilities to tackle the inequalities in health and social care that are highlighted in the Scottish Government Policies: The Keys to Life and Strengthening the Commitment. Together we are enhancing the patient journey through raising awareness of the use of Key Information Summaries. We were also privileged to be supported by the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities and NHS Grampian in developing an information guide on what to expect when you call NHS 24.
Download the NHS 24 Easy Read.
Life for me is busy, but I am content in my choice to enter mental health nursing. I even met my husband Aldon in 2000 on the ward of my first post. We live happily in Glasgow with our three children aged 10, 9 and 6.
Who knew that I would be a lifelong learner? Since becoming a nurse, I have achieved the following qualifications:
- BSc Health Studies
- BSc (Hons) Specialist Practice in Mental Health (NMC recorded Specialist Practitioner in Mental Health)
- PgD Teaching and Learning (NMC recorded Teacher)
- Scottish Improvement Foundation Skills Programme
- MSc Advanced Practice (Education in Academic and Practice Settings)
Next stop the Professional Doctorate?
For me, nursing is more than a career, it is a vocation. I have been so lucky to have met my NHS family along the way; likeminded, kind, and supportive colleagues who support me professionally and indulge me in my love of planning a night out! Through compassion, shared learning and understanding I believe we will continue to improve the health of our patients. I never underestimate the encouragement and opportunities I have had over the past 23 years and remain forever grateful to those who continue to support me. Working for those who experience mental health difficulties and learning disabilities is a true privilege.