After deciding on a change of career Tonie studied for the Nursing Associate Degree Apprenticeship at the University of Hertfordshire
Nursing is a typically female-dominated industry. Why did you decide on this career?
I previously worked as an engineer but I was looking for a different career. I looked into healthcare and discovered the nursing associate role. I found out that I could become a nursing associate apprentice, which would open doors for me and enable me to get paid while I learned.
How did you get onto your apprenticeship?
I was interested in a career working in mental health so I applied for a job with Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust (NHS mental health and learning disability trust) as a healthcare support worker in an adult mental health unit.
I then progressed on to the nursing associate role and was enrolled onto the student nursing associate apprenticeship at the University of Hertfordshire.
Do you think there's a lack of males in nursing?
Yes there is a lack of males in nursing and this is due to the stereotype of nursing being a female profession.
I think there should be more champions for male nurses and testimonials on male nursing using videos showing a day in the life of a male nurse. The numbers of male nurses is increasing so it's encouraging to know that there is a career in nursing for males.
What's a typical day like as a nurse?
A typical day starts with a handover from the previous shift staff. Once I know which patients I'm caring for, I see each patient individually and discuss their plan of care for the day including any issues that they may be having.
I review any medications and review the care being provided so that I can make any adjustments to the plan in agreement with the patient. I also involve the patient's relatives or carers in this review.
Throughout the shift I make sure that the patients I'm responsible for are comfortable, pain-free, hydrated and that their nutritional needs are met. I also liaise with other members of the nursing team to find out about other care needs, e.g. wound dressing, physical health checks such as blood pressure, temperature and pulse monitoring. Any changes in the patient's physical or mental health needs are escalated to the nurse in charge of the shift.
There are also multi-professional meetings, which review patients on an individual basis to assess their care plans, goals and outcomes in order to look at a potential discharge date or further care needed. This is an opportunity to interact with other health professionals, e.g. doctors and physiotherapists.
At the end of each shift I provide a handover to the staff on the next shift about the current status of each of the patients, their treatment and the care provided, as well as an update on future care planning.
I always feel satisfied at the end of my working day because I know that in some way, I have contributed to the welfare of patients and ensured that they are progressing towards their outcomes and their onward journey, whether to their own home or another service that will provide support for them.
Describe your job in five words.
What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?
Seeing the recovery of a patient and the fact that I and other members of the multi-professional team have helped them to reach this stage, as well as promoting independence to allow them to return to their usual way of life.
What are the challenges?
Working within mental health care, patients are often frightened and vulnerable. The way to overcome this is through providing a safe environment - talking to the patient as an individual and providing holistic care. It's important that I, along with other members of the multi-professional team investigate whether there are other issues that may not have been identified, such as underlying health conditions, e.g. diabetes, which can sometimes cause mood fluctuations or deterioration in health.
Other challenges include dependency - often people with mental health issues rely on a team to support them but it's also important that I and the multi-professional team promote independence to allow that person to go back to living their lives as fully as possible.
What new perspectives do you think you bring to your job?
I believe I bring a different perspective in understanding the issues specific to males who develop mental health issues and how society views these issues.
In addition, some male patients sometimes prefer a male healthcare professional, particularly when they feel they're not able to express their feelings fully with a female.
What are your career ambitions?
I want to become a registered mental health nurse but I want to remain in my current role as a nursing associate for the time being to gain as much experience and skills as possible.
Tell us about three challenges facing nursing today.
- A reduction in the number of nurses within the NHS and other independent sector healthcare organisations - this is addressed by my role which bridges the gap between healthcare support workers and the registered nurse. Furthermore, my role as a nursing associate is regulated by the Nursing & Midwifery Council in the same way as the registered nurse role is, which allows me to do many of the tasks that a registered nurse performs. It also allows career progression, which is not always available when you work as a healthcare support worker.
- A lack of experienced senior staff to support new staff - this is in part due to nurses with a wealth of experience taking early retirement and that experience not being replaced. This is being addressed through recruitment campaigns to attract retired nurses back into the profession utilising their skills and experience in a different way, for example in education or as mentors for newly-qualified nursing staff.
- An increase in demand for care of people - this is particularly the case in the areas of mental health and learning disability. There is additional funding from the government to support this demand but it's often only seen as a priority when a crisis occurs, for example when people develop mental health issues as a result of socio-economic factors or a lack of access to healthcare, both in the physical and mental health areas.
What advice can you give to aspiring male nurses?
There are many opportunities for males to enter the nursing profession, either as a nursing associate, a healthcare support worker or as a registered nurse. Many of these roles are funded through apprenticeship schemes so it's possible to gain experience and progress along your chosen career pathway.
It's worth looking on the NHS Jobs website to look at available roles within the NHS and searching for roles within independent organisations such as hospices, nursing or residential homes or organisations that provide care for people in their own home.
There is also further information that can be found through the Health Education England and Skills for Care websites. Personally, I will stay working within the NHS because it is a job for life, I've made so many friends and I love the team working aspect of my job.
Find out more
- Learn more about the role of a mental health nurse.
- Gain an insight into the healthcare sector.
- Find out more about nursing apprenticeships.