Community Mental Health Nurse
Annandale and Eskdale
I work in the Community Mental Health Service in Annandale and Eskdale, a scenic rural area in Dumfries and Galloway. We are based in the town of Annan but cover small towns and villages across a wide and remote landscape. There is a lot of travel across the locality where I oversee mental health services. We see people with a range of mental health problems and the type and duration of support will vary depending on every individual’s needs.
I always knew that I wanted to work in Community Mental Health services after being fortunate enough to shadow some fantastic nurses as a student. After working in mental health hospital wards I applied to work in a community team. I quickly realised this was the right role for me, working with people and their families over longer periods of time and feeling that I could make a positive difference has allowed me to continue to thrive in this role over the last nine years. I was given an exciting opportunity to develop a primary care mental health service together with local people. Those who have been able to speak to a mental health nurse at their local GP surgery have really appreciated being able to get the support they need close to home. The success of the initiative meant we have now expanded into every GP practice across our region and help more people to access the right support at the right time. Although I now lead the team, I continue to see people in my community mental health nurse role which is really important to me. I love the balance between making a positive impact for those with mental health issues whilst leading and empowering a team of nurses and healthcare support workers. I am passionate about reducing mental health stigma and promoting hope for recovery for people going through mental health difficulties. My vision is to ensure that mental health is seen as equally important as physical health.
I recently completed an MSc in Mental Health Practice which has helped me consolidate and develop my clinical expertise in enabling mental health recovery as well as developing my skills in leadership. One of the key aspects of my role is in developing therapeutic relationships quickly. When people are telling me, a stranger, about their mental health it can be daunting and distressing. Active listening, compassion and empathy are key skills to building trust. I never forget the importance of putting someone at ease when I first meet them. Close working with families and carers is vital which often involves difficult conversations and navigating around family dynamics. As a senior mental health nurse I have significant autonomy and I make clinical decisions based upon comprehensive mental health assessments. Sometimes people who may be experiencing a relapse of a severe illness do not agree to treatment and this requires robust risk assessment, liaising with family and other clinicians whilst ensuring the therapeutic relationship with that individual is not compromised. It requires a high degree of professional knowledge, skill and compassion.
A man I have known for a long time recently went through a difficult period where he was more troubled with psychotic symptoms. He had become further distressed when he had attended a benefits review and his benefits were stopped. This left him in poverty; he would not be able to access activities that previously kept him well and his symptoms meant that he would have struggled to hold down a job. I saw him regularly and helped him learn some new coping strategies to reduce his distress and began the process of appealing the benefits decision. This was a frustrating and daunting process for him so I advocated on his behalf. After a long drawn out process the decision was reversed. The feedback I received from him was not only had I helped him to resolve an unbearable situation but the reassurance and support I had provided had made a huge difference to his mental wellbeing.