Sarah completed a Diploma in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Surrey. She then went on to do a Postgraduate Diploma in Cognitive Therapy for Severe and Complex Mental Health Problems. Sarah now works as a manager/tutor-practitioner and community psychiatric nurse at an NHS Trust
All the studies I have undertaken have led me to where I am now. The nursing diploma was a gateway to gaining some understanding and experience in order to pursue a career involved with helping people with mental health difficulties. So it was quite crucial as the starting point as it opened up more opportunities to diversify my nursing role.
My curiosity for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was equally relevant to pursuing a career in a team that focused on helping those with psychosis. I wanted to share my experiences of CBT and nursing with a wider audience in order to play a part in enhancing the care of patients beyond my service. This led me to secure a job as a tutor-practitioner where I currently teach undergraduate student nurses.
My nursing role began with a focus on care for patients in a hospital setting. As a named nurse on an acute psychiatric ward, I rarely worked on my own and therefore made joint decisions with other professionals and the patient.
When I moved to the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT), I initially shadowed other clinicians and used supervision to reflect and learn from the variety of clinical experiences in the community. With the growth of my knowledge and experiences of managing risks, I began to work more autonomously and grew more confident in making more complex decisions on my own alongside service users. My role had expanded to become a community psychiatric nurse (CPN).
My interactions with students as a mentor enhanced my understanding of mental health even further, as students always seem to have inquiring minds and a variety of questions. This added to my own curiosity and led me to explore cognitive behavioural therapy and its effectiveness in helping those with mental health difficulties. This expanded my role from CPN to trainee CBT therapist.
My ambitions are to continue to contribute to the high quality of nursing from future generations of nurses who graduate from the University of Surrey. I would also like to become more involved in strategic influencing of policy that improves the social inclusion of people with mental health difficulties and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.
I love working with a diverse range of people. Our service caters for 14-35 year olds who come with great creativity and a zest for life, which has often been dampened by illness. I enjoy helping the young people we work with re-discover and work towards their ambitions and aspirations.
It can be very difficult to see a young person's life disrupted by psychotic illness and the wider impact of this on their family and social life. It can also be challenging to say goodbye after working intensively with someone for three years, which is the standard length of the service we provide.
It's a rewarding job that is never boring. Every individual/family you work with is different and unique.
The advice I would give to someone who wants to get into this career would be to try to gain some first-hand experience of mental health services either in volunteering or otherwise, just to get a taster of what the career has to offer. If you have curiosity and genuine interest in people, then nursing could be the field for you.
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