'There is not a normal day' - Mental health nurse speaks about highs and lows of job for first Mental Health Nurses Day
When Jessica Ogden goes to work she never knows what the day will bring.
As a clinical team lead on Beach Ward, based at Hammerton Court in Norwich, Miss Ogden looks after those with serious cases of dementia - a challenging but equally rewarding role.
And she spoke about her job to mark the first ever Mental Health Nurses Day today, (Thursday).
The event, which is being spearheaded by the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) Mental Health Forum, aims to recognise the valuable contribution which mental health nurses make every single day while encouraging others to think about joining the profession.
Miss Ogden, 25, first thought about going into nursing while at secondary school.
“I always knew I wanted to do something working with people,” she said. “Nursing isn’t in my family but I decided to do psychology at A level with health and social care, and it was from then I realised it was about trying to understand what people do and why they do it. I wanted to do something that meant I was really getting to the core of the person and who they are, but while actually working with them.”
Miss Ogden, who lives in Norwich, studied mental health nursing at the University of East Anglia (UEA), where she had a placement at Hammerton Court, at the Julian Hospital, which cares for people with dementia.
Miss Ogden desperately wanted to work on the unit, but she had already accepted a job in Cambridge.
“I fell in love with the patients,” she said. “I really feel you can get yourself involved with the families.”
And the pull to come back to Norwich was so strong after 10 months in Cambridge, she returned to a job on Beach Ward.
There were challenges with the job - Miss Ogden said like the rest of the NHS there were staff shortages and it could be stressful.
But she also said: “There is not a normal day, you can walk in the door and I don’t know what we’re going to be faced with. Working with dementia the patient’s needs change on a daily basis. It’s a challenge but it’s one I enjoy.
And she said it was the patients who made her job her ideal role.
“I absolutely love every day,” she said. “You can come in and there will be someone or something which will make you smile and make you think the difficult days are worth it. It’s a really privileged position.”
She said her favourite part of the job was seeing small change make a big difference.
“Things like getting someone back home if you thought that wasn’t possible, you have to really invest yourself in getting to know an indivudual, you can have a good quality care plan but unless you really understand that person it’s no good.”
Miss Ogden gave one example of understanding previous jobs, and one patient who would get agitated and want to line other patients up - it transpired she used to be a teacher so this was part of her routine.
Similarly with patients who were delivery drivers or fishermen who would wake up at 4am.
“This might be seen as an unusual sleep pattern, but for them it isn’t,” she said.
“We have lots of seamen as well,” she said. “They might seem to be self-isolating but if they’ve spent a lot of their life alone, putting them in an environment with lots of people might not be helpful. I feel that there is recovery in dementia, if you try and establish what those needs are and you can meet them.”
She encouraged anyone interested to get into the profession and said: “I think if you have an interest in caring for people at their most vulnerable, if you would like a challenge but also something where you will reap so many rewards, then it’s for you.”
‘So many changes’
Diane Hull, chief nurse with Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), said: “Training to be a mental health nurse was one of the very best decisions I ever made.
“Over the last 35 years I’ve seen so many challenges, changes and so much kindness, compassion and care, new ways of working and practicing. But it is the people that we care for and work with who are special.
“Patients and carers who touch your heart, who inspire and fill you with hope and humility. Colleagues, whose support, camaraderie and absolute commitment help you through the ever-changing, often challenging, always rewarding times which mental health nurses face.
“People who take time to listen, time to care, bring joy to work and who we will never forget is what mental health nursing is all about – it’s the people who make it special.”
Mental Health Nurses Day has been organised partially in response to national statistics from the Nursing and Midwifery Council which show the number of mental health nurses fell from 90,693 in 2014 to 88,821 in 2018. It is hoped that by showcasing the variety which the role brings and the satisfaction of caring for others, more new recruits may be encouraged to join the specialty.
Father takes up nursing training
After a varied career, Michael Jenkins began his nurse training on Tuesday, during the week in which the first Mental Health Nurses Day takes place.
The 38-year-old father-of-two from Dereham will spend the first week of his two-year mental health nursing degree apprenticeship undergoing an induction at the University of Suffolk in Ipswich.
His first job after leaving school with just one GCSE was as an apprentice truck mechanic but for the past eight years he has worked for NSFT.
He has had a variety of roles for the trust, including as a storeman, library assistant, data technician / receptionist, peer support worker and senior support worker. He has also gained a Level 2 and Level 3 NVQ in Business Administration.
More recently, he had completed a two-year apprenticeship to qualify as an assistant practitioner, a role he currently carries out for the Central Norfolk Crisis Resolution Home Treatment (CRHT) team, based at Hellesdon Hospital.
“When I worked as a data technician / receptionist, I enjoyed observing the work of clinical staff and really respected what they did,” he said.
“Many years ago, I had mental health difficulties of my own and spent time as an inpatient, and this experience has helped me in my assistant practitioner role, and I’m sure it will help as a I train towards becoming a qualified nurse.
“The trust has been supportive of me, and my ambition is to simply make a positive difference to the lives of patients so they can lead a meaningful life, with or without symptoms.”
During his mental health nursing degree apprenticeship, Mr Jenkins will continue to work as an assistant practitioner for the Central Norfolk CRHT team, but will also study at the University of Suffolk and undertake a variety of placements to broaden his nursing experience.
‘I really enjoy my job’
Luke Peek qualified in September 2017 after studying at the University of East Anglia.
Since then he has gone from strength to strength, first working on Thurne Ward, which is an acute assessment ward at Hellesdon Hospital in Norwich, before moving to Rollesby Ward, a psychiatric intensive care unit, on the same site.
The 23-year-old was appointed to his current role as a charge nurse on Churchill Ward at the Fermoy Unit in King’s Lynn six months ago, and has fully embraced the opportunity to further develop his skills and understanding.
“I really enjoy my job,” said Mr Peek, who lives in Dereham. “Every day is different and you meet people from all walks of life. I particularly enjoy the contact with the patients and being able to play my part in providing good patient care.
“I enjoy looking at ways to improve the service we provide and making a difference.”
Mr Peek has been interested in healthcare for as long as he can remember and enjoyed watching healthcare related television programmes when he was younger.
But it was a stint of work experience at a nursing home while he was doing his A Levels that sparked his interest in pursuing a career in mental health.
He added: “It’s a really rewarding role, and quite challenging at times but I work alongside a good team which makes a big difference. Sometimes patients can feel that there is no hope in moving forward, but I have witnessed people regain this hope and move towards recovery, which is always really gratifying.
“The opportunities I’ve had so far to learn and develop, and the support which I’ve received at every stage, have been brilliant. In the future I plan to continue developing my leadership and management skills but it’s still too early to say exactly where I would like to be working in the future.”
• Throughout today people can ask a question or join the conversation on Twitter using #MHNursesDay, while mental health nurses are being encouraged to share the things they love about their job.For more information, visit mhnursesday.co.uk