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  • 02 February 2022
  • 6 min read

Determined To Work In The Community From Day One

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  • Amy Barlow
    Community Mental Health Nurse
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
  • 1
  • 492
I feel very strongly that mental health practice still has a long way to go to transform with the times and become more supportive, adaptive, personalised, and community based.“I feel very strongly that mental health practice still has a long way to go to transform with the times and become more supportive, adaptive, personalised, and community based.”

Amy talks about her career and outlines why she is so interested in the community side of Mental Health Nursing.

Topics Covered In This Article

Introduction

My First Mental Health Nurse Role After Qualifying

How I Progressed To Band 6

What It's Like Working in A Community Mental Health Nurse Role

Where I Would Like to Take My Career Next

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Introduction

I started my mental health Nursing degree in 2012 at the University of Brighton.

I was aged 39 at the time and a single parent.

I was set on working in the community but was repeatedly told it was not possible to start your mental health Nursing career this way, that I had to start on the wards.

My final placement was with a local community eating disorders service, which I became interested in when a young fellow student became very unwell with an eating disorder.

Initially, I was seeking an understanding of the disorder and this turned into a passion to want to support people experiencing these difficulties and navigate the way with them to safety and recovery.

I had an immensely supportive mentor who pushed me to learn as much as I could and also challenge me along the way.

She has become a lifelong friend and inspiration.

Whilst I was on placement a post became available and I secured my first band 5 post with the team.

By Being in the team already, I had a good understanding of what was required of me post qualification, the team knew me well and my skill set and I would definitely recommend this to student Nurses.

By being in the team already, I had a good understanding of what was required of me post qualification, the team knew me well and my skill set and I would definitely recommend this to student Nurses.

To have a think and to try to navigate a way to choose your final placement.

At the time there was not a placement in this area, but I met with the team to help set this up, which definitely paid off not only for me but for future students.

My First Mental Health Nurse Role After Qualifying

The role was very diverse and I did very much feel I was practising as a mental health and physical health Nurse at that time.

I supported the weekly group sessions that ran for psychoeducation around eating disorders, did my phlebotomy training, then was able to take bloods, do ECG's, blood pressure and regular weighing of my clients.

I also developed an in depth understanding of the physical health complications and risks in eating disorders, how to manage these and respond in a timely manner when there was deterioration.

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How I Progressed To Band 6

I moved on to band 6 with more responsibility after about a year post qualifying.

This meant greater complexity in my client caseload, for example mostly severe anorexia, and clients at a high risk of deterioration, requiring admissions.

This included close interprofessional working with specialist eating disorder units, GP's, local county hospitals and crisis services.

As I progressed in this post, I decided to start a MSc in psychology (self-funded).

The team had several Psychologists embedded in it and they inspired me to consider a doctorate in clinical psychology.

I finished the MSc in 2020, was unsuccessful in my application for the doctorate, but also had a plan to consider Nurse education.

I have just completed a PGCE in practice education and have gained a small contract with the University of Brighton, where I have thus far taught sessions on risk assessment, eating disorders, trauma informed approaches and care planning.

What It's Like Working in A Community Mental Health Nurse Role

From 2019, I worked in an assessment and treatment service.

We work with moderate to severe mental health issues and a lot of this work is supporting people with suicidal tendencies.

As a community mental health Nurse, you have to juggle a lot of plates in the air at once.

As a community mental health Nurse, you have to juggle a lot of plates in the air at once.

There are the demands of the Nursing requirements, such as case note reporting, assessment reports, care plans, risk assessments, but also the day to day managing a diary, and being a relatively independent practitioner.

Of course, the team is also available for support, but in the moment, when you are sitting in someone's living room, who has an active plan to end their life, you have to think on your feet and make quick decisions about this person's care.

You very much have to make time for your own resilience.

The strain of hearing about other people's trauma has different names such as vicarious trauma, or compassion fatigue and this can be a difficult aspect of the job to manage, in order to avoid burn-out.

I have been a wellbeing champion in all the teams I have been in since qualifying and not only actively encourage practitioners to look after their own wellbeing through exercise, meditation, whatever works for them, but have successfully secured funding through my trust to run yoga sessions for practitioner wellbeing.

I feel especially passionate about this area of my work, as sometimes it can feel a bit neglected, especially when working in such busy environments.

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Where I Would Like to Take My Career Next

I like to teach on topics such as alternatives to the medical model of understanding distress, trauma informed approaches, eating disorders and the assessment of mental health issues.

Where I have been able to gain invaluable experience in mental health Nursing in the past six years through direct client contact, I now feel I would like to share this with students on a more formal basis than the role of practice assessor.

I hope to combine a role at a local university with clinical practice, to keep the links between the two alive.

I feel passionate about practice being able to learn from new research and academia, but it has often felt the two are quite separate and working in silos.

This is a more unusual route but I feel necessary, especially as I am only six years post qualifying.

I am a passionate, holistic and political mental health Nurse with a strong ethic for social justice and advocating for my clients’ rights.

During my PGCE in practice education, I have developed my identity as a radical, critical practitioner and educator.

I feel very strongly that mental health practice still has a long way to go to transform with the times and become more supportive, adaptive, personalised, and community based.

About the author

  • Amy Barlow
    Community Mental Health Nurse

Amy started her mental health Nursing degree in 2012 at the University of Brighton, as a single parent aged 39. Since 2019, she has worked in the bustling assessment and treatment service in Brighton. She is a passionate, holistic and political mental health Nurse, with a strong ethic for social justice and advocating for clients’ rights.

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  • Amy Barlow
    Community Mental Health Nurse

About the author

  • Amy Barlow
    Community Mental Health Nurse

Amy started her mental health Nursing degree in 2012 at the University of Brighton, as a single parent aged 39. Since 2019, she has worked in the bustling assessment and treatment service in Brighton. She is a passionate, holistic and political mental health Nurse, with a strong ethic for social justice and advocating for clients’ rights.

    • Laura Bosworth
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
  • 1
  • 492

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    • Gwenola Dugue 3 months ago
      Gwenola Dugue
    • Gwenola Dugue
      3 months ago

      Hi Amy, Frankly, your article on your formative years is extremely interesting and I wish you all the ... read more