'I found this a good way of learning about other services and applying the techniques to enable clinicians to analyse the strengths and weaknesses.'
Please tell us about your background prior to starting the course?
I specialised in mental health nursing. I commenced my nursing career with a preceptorship in adult mental health in-patient nursing based at St Charles Hospital in London. This experience taught me some core psychiatric nursing skills for dealing with the acutely unwell patient.
I then applied for a staff nurse position in the older people in-patient mental health services in Oxford. I learned the core nursing skills related to the older person.
After a year I moved back to London to take up a post in a day hospital for older people. This was because I wanted to specialise in delivering recovery interventions for older people with mental health problems. I found this work very stimulating and rewarding because it offered the opportunity to really work with people on improving their strengths and enable them to make lasting changes to their lives. I also enjoyed the challenge of preventing unnecessary admissions and enhancing the recovery pathway for this client group.
I stayed many years in this service and undertook successively senior roles including the day hospital managers’ post. In this position I helped transform the service to an outreach and in-reach recovery team and enabled the development of different treatment approaches.
I then undertook a service manager role for the older people services in Richmond and Kingston for several years and enabled the older people services to develop through a series of transformation processes.
I eventually applied for a Project Manager position following a review of the management team across Richmond and Kingston. This role had a focus on service development which appealed to me including the opportunity to work across all the service areas of the trust. I found this a good way of learning about other services and applying the techniques to enable clinicians to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of their services. I also learnt the skills to implement clinical and managerial changes. I was also involved in some innovative projects such as a scheme to facilitate patients to conduct their out-patient consultations via Skype.
What were your main motivations to apply for this course?
In 2016 the NHS Trust where I was employed embarked on a management review and restructuring exercise. I took a voluntary redundancy package as a result of this process. This provided me with the opportunity to review my career options.
I had been working away from the clinical area in a non-nursing capacity and therefore I had lost my pin number and nursing registration. The option of directly applying for a nursing post was therefore not immediately available – but I was keen to return to my nursing roots. I recalled how rewarding my nursing roles had been in my earlier career. For example the opportunity to make a real difference to people’s experience of mental health problems and assisting them on their recovery journey.
I also recognised how valuable my experience and knowledge gained in the various nursing and non-nursing roles would be if I had the opportunity to use it in a nursing context. These skills included people management, service development, resources management and communication, all of which I believed would enable me to achieve added value through their application in the practice setting.
I was encouraged to re-enter mental health nursing practice at a time when mental health is becoming more of a political priority. This has been evident with national initiatives such as the Governments target of reducing deaths from suicide and the new legal requirement for the NHS to achieve ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical care.
I was also keen to get involved with teaching and learning activity – something I had not really been able to practice while in a management role. Teaching provides an opportunity to help students achieve their best. This involves inspiring them academically, practically and personally. I also envisaged enjoying the intellectual challenge of creating a well thought out lesson plan and sharing enthusiasm for nursing by acting as a role model of excellent nursing practice.
Why did you choose to study at City, University of London?
I wanted to study Return to Practice Nursing in London because the associated clinical placements are located at some of the country’s leading healthcare Trusts. The demographic composition of the areas served by these Trusts is also very broad allowing students to experience a diverse range of clinical conditions and social situations. City, University of London has also achieved 1st place for Nursing in London (Complete University Guide 2019) and 97% overall student satisfaction (NSS2018).
How has studying this course helped you to develop personally and professionally?
The course gave me a good foundation to re-commence nursing practice by enabling me to become familiar with basic core nursing skills and competences that I had forgotten such as medicine management, safe calculation of medicines doses, care compassion and communication, organisational aspects of care and infection prevention and control.
Essential knowledge to keep safe in the working environment and about key legislation where nursing currently takes place was provided. This involved mandatory health and safety aspects such as moving and handling, basic life support, violence and aggression and childcare and adult infection.
I was facilitated to acquire very specific practical mental health skills and competencies while on the clinical placement such as the range of interventions for helping people in their recovery pathway and the skills to assess and manage physical health of people experiencing mental health problems.
These mental health specific nursing skills have enabled me to secure an e grade post in the community Recovery Service for Older People. This service facilitates people to recover from an acute mental health crisis. In addition, they are often experiencing a range of physical health problems that require nursing assessment and management.
On a personal level the course has helped me to re-establish my confidence to undertake a clinical role again and better manage my career planning and objectives.
How did you find the transition to studying alongside working?
I had previously completed a Master’s programme and therefore had become familiar with the strategies for undertaking a programme of study alongside a demanding work schedule. I had a part-time job in a small online advertising company throughout the duration of the Return to Practice programme which made it much easier to manage the demands of both the programme of study and the requirements of the job.
I was also able to negotiate my clinical placement schedule to enable me to organise a timetable which dovetailed with my working commitments.
Did you benefit from any additional opportunities and experiences at City that you’d like to share with us?
I was already established in London with a network of friends and social contacts and therefore did not feel the need to become involved in the extra-curricular life at City.
I did however join a WhatsApp Group, encouraged by the Return to Practice tutors and set up by the Return to Practice Nursing students in my cohort which I found very helpful and supportive. There were also some social events that resulted from this group which I attended.
What are your career plans after completing the course, and how has City helped you prepare for the next stage in your career journey?
The Return to Practice Nursing programme at City has enabled me to appreciate additional career opportunities that are available to me. I have spent many years working in Older Peoples Mental Health services. Whilst I have always found this speciality very enjoyable and rewarding I had not considered the option of pursuing a career with another speciality at this later stage of my life.
The experience of working in the Adult Recovery and Rehabilitation team has opened my eyes to the career possibilities of this service group. I had the opportunity of working in a dedicated clinic associated with the R & R team with the remit of improving the physical health of the R & R service users.I found this experience stimulating and rewarding which has motivated me to take further study and improve my skills in this area. I have recently completed a course ‘Physical Assessment Skills for Mental Health Professionals’ with the aim of enabling me to develop a career as a Mental Health Advanced Practitioner in a GP or community setting perhaps with a remit for the physical healthcare of people with mental health problems.
What advice would you give to people thinking about studying the Return to Practice Nursing course at City?
At the outset organise and set up a meeting with the HR department to establish an Honorary Contract with the sponsoring Trust. The staff in the HR department can take a long time to process your application. You may not be their first priority and therefore the sooner you get this organised the better and you will be less likely to experience a delay in commencing your clinical placement.
Try to complete the practice booklet associated with the placement programme as it progresses, rather than leaving it all to the end, to enable you to document and reflect on your clinical experiences while they are fresh in your memory.
Take the opportunity to visit different clinical experiences and departments while on your clinical placement. It’s more difficult to do this once you are in a full time job.