DDN November 2022 DDN Nov_2022 - Page 23

BECOMING A MENTAL HEALTH NURSE

Kerrin Thompson gives the nursing career path that has led to her most satisfying role

At 36 years old I ’ m now an RMN-registered mental health nurse . I worked on an acute inpatient 28 bed ward for 13 years and managed a lot of drug and alcohol addiction .

My career story began at 19 when I was at university and had the chance to pick one of my student placements . I chose Phoenix Futures Wirral residential and stayed for four months . I absolutely loved my time there and I always told myself that if Phoenix ever decided to take on a nurse that I would apply . ( At this time nurses were not employed at Phoenix ).
In 2018 a job finally appeared for Phoenix – I was so happy . I applied straightaway , had an interview and was offered the job . I ’ ve now worked here for four and a half years .
People who develop problems with substance use tend to self-prescribe with medications or alcohol to help them manage their mental health symptoms and struggles – whether psychosis , schizophrenia , bipolar disorder , emotionally unstable personality disorder ( EUPD ), post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD ), eating disorders , anxiety and depression , or childhood traumas .
On a typical day I help with the assessment process for residents needing treatment and oversee the physical / mental health aspect . I support clients ’ needs , which might mean taking them to hospital appointments for bloods and x-rays , and administer their medication .
I give in-house training to staff about medication and mental health issues , and also train on naloxone , opiate withdrawal , alcohol withdrawal and eating disorders .
I work closely with people regarding their mental health , administer any
depot injections required and liaise with the mental health teams .
I have a good working relationship with our doctors . I oversee all doctors ’ clinics and any physical health needs of clients , and have one-to-ones . I carry out a daily nurse triage with those who may have physical , mental or general health needs and give medication reviews and weekly medication audits to ensure clients ’ needs are being met .
What would I say to anyone considering a similar career ? Just go for it . I did , and I ’ m the happiest I have ever been in a job role .
I also complete a lot of other tasks that aren ’ t in my job role , but as a staff team we all do this . We have such an amazing staff team that I call my family .
The most rewarding part of my job is when a client comes into the service very unwell and leaves treatment to live the life they deserve and find happiness .
One important thing I would like to change is the stigma associated with substance misuse and people ’ s perceptions of this . I would also like to change how people engage with services , as funding should be available for everyone and in an easier way to access .
What would I say to anyone considering a similar career ? Just go for it . I did , and I ’ m the happiest I have ever been in a job role .
Kerrin Thompson is a mental health nurse at Phoenix Futures

MEETING PEOPLE WHERE THEY ’ RE AT

As an advanced nurse practitioner , Susan McCutcheon ’ s outreach role sees her engaging with people where they most need it

As a registered general nurse with Cranstoun , a significant part of my role is outreach – largely working directly on the street . This involves going into the community and getting to know the local population of individuals who use substances – often the people I meet have little or no contact with services and street inject . It ’ s all about meeting people where they ’ re at – going to the car parks , bus shelters and town streets .

This engagement leads to being able to give harm reduction interventions such as providing injecting equipment and discussing safer injecting practices . It can also lead to individuals entering Cranstoun ’ s treatment service . It enables conversations about people ’ s physical and mental health needs that have often been unaddressed for some time . Typical issues encountered include abscesses , deep vein thrombosis , leg ulcers , respiratory problems , depression and people with chronic conditions without medication . Sometimes I identify serious conditions that require urgent attention , including hospital admission which I help facilitate . In this role I ’ m able to advise and treat individuals for some of their conditions . On other occasions it ’ s about acting as a link between the individual and health services and supporting them to attend appointments and access medical treatment .
Many people I encounter in this role are often described as ‘ hard to reach ’ or ‘ non-engagers ’ – I would challenge that thinking . My experience has taught me that individuals will often readily engage via the street setting and want to access support around their health needs and the injecting equipment on offer . To be in a car park with a group of people around me waiting for antimicrobial handwipes and water for injections before leaving to use , then later returning to sit and talk through health concerns they have , is satisfying . They ’ re accessing something they often wouldn ’ t otherwise and are starting to think about how they can be safer .
I ’ d say that crucial to this role is being passionate , having a commitment to meeting the people where they are and increasing access to healthcare . I ’ d love this to be a standard approach nationally to reach individuals who services are currently not accessing .
Susan McCutcheon is an advanced nurse practitioner at Cranstoun
WWW . DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS . COM NOVEMBER 2022 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • 23