- 16 September 2021
- 11 min read
Going It Alone: Why I Set Up A Holistic Wellness Business After Working As A Mental Health NurseSubscribe To Advice
Annie Oliver tells us why she decided to set up on her own after working for the NHS for six years.
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I graduated as a Mental Health Nurse in 2015, so am young in my Nursing career compared to many.
However, I have a wide range of experience prior to my Nursing training and have had some great experience in acute Mental Health care, which has helped my career to grow quickly.
On qualifying, I initially worked in Addictions outside of the NHS, then went on to complete my NHS preceptorship as a community psychiatric nurse.
I then got my first band 6 role on the Crisis Response and Home Treatment team, later moving across to a band 6 role as a Psychiatric Liaison Nurse and following this, secured my current role as a band 7 Clinical Lead on a Psychiatric Liaison team.
One of the great things about Mental Health Nursing is that, due to the type of work and the decisions we make, a lot of posts are at band 6 or 7, so if you have a compassionate, patient-focused ethos, and the drive to learn and develop, you can achieve great things within a short space of time.
Why I Decided To Set Up My Own Business
Mental Health nursing laid strong foundations for me growing a ‘business brain’ and becoming curious about alternative ways to wellness.
We find ourselves in all sorts of difficult situations and often must think quickly, be strong coordinators and be able to give a calm response to people in distress.
We are privileged to be able to connect with people in their times of need and it was this connection that led me to grow an interest in complementary therapies. Without mental health nursing, I feel I would not have grown the confidence or experience to take such a big step.
Mindfulness and meditation - both Eastern-based techniques - are becoming more widely accepted within Mental Health services.
Lots of people I supported would tell me about how they used mindfulness, meditation, or different complementary techniques to help them stay well, which made me interested in why this worked so well for some people.
There is also a growing movement and body of evidence towards techniques such as acupuncture and talking therapies for managing pain, instead of prescribing pain medications and there are similar thoughts and movements around sleep issues.
The growth of Recovery Colleges and service-user led movements, where the focus is on people being able to be creative with their own wellness really inspired me.
I undertook a diploma in Clinical Hypnotherapy, began to study meditation and I am currently undertaking study to be a mindfulness practitioner.
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What Is Holistic Wellness And How Is It Similar/Different To Mainstream Treatments?
By "holistic", we usually mean alternative or complementary therapies, which are not lying within a ‘medical model’ of a specific research-based solution for a particular diagnosis.
They are usually based on more Eastern or spiritual approaches and valued by the individual in terms of the meaning they find in them or the effects they feel from the activity or treatment.
‘Alternative’ tends to refer to treatments or activities where someone decides to use these approaches in place of the traditional treatment.
For example, choosing to have Hypnotherapy for anxiety after trying the traditional treatments with no success.
‘Complementary’ means alongside, or to supplement the existing treatment.
For instance, someone with depression may be taking antidepressants but also decide to try acupuncture alongside this.
The main difference is in the choice, and the person being able to find out what works well for them, as we are all individuals and deal with life and problems very differently.
If I work with someone in my holistic wellness business, I will always recommend that they consider and try the mainstream treatments on offer first and speak to their GP about the options.
Do The Alternative/Complementary Treatments Clash With My Nursing Background?
Although I am not working with people as a Nurse in my private business, I am always accountable to the NMC code and this is something that is always on my mind when seeing a client, particularly for the first time.
However, my Nursing experience is also a huge benefit, in that I feel happy to identify where traditional treatments would be more beneficial and signpost someone to mainstream services.
In my NHS job I work with people who are often acutely unwell, suicidal, or experiencing severe Mental Health difficulties and it would be entirely inappropriate to practice any complementary therapies on these people as a first line treatment.
I find that the people who approach me for complementary therapies are usually looking for ways to manage something specific, like emotional issues, weight management or stress reduction, which is so different to my nursing role, so it is much easier to keep those roles separate.
I am open about my private work, and I find most colleagues respect it, even if they don’t understand it.
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What Is A Social Enterprise?
I decided to set up a social enterprise rather than an entirely private business as a social enterprise is a not-for-profit business with strong social and community aims.
This really appealed to my NHS ethos, as although I can’t provide this service within the NHS, I felt strongly that more people could have this choice.
The social enterprise uses any excess profits to fund access to choice-based therapies for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.
We offer traditional therapies such as CBT and EMDR, alongside more ‘alternative’ or complementary therapies such as Hypnotherapy, EFT, guided meditation, and Reiki, and we discuss all of the above options with everyone who comes to us, allowing them to make an informed choice about what feels right for them.
We have a strong goal in increasing the mental resilience of our community, of early intervention and for people who do not necessarily fit the criteria of support from Mental Health services having a space to come and learn about their wellness and build a wellness toolbox of their own.
How Do I Still Find Time To Run My Business If I Am Working Full Time As A Nurse?
This has been – and still is – a learning experience.
I am not alone in this business and have other investors, Mental Health Nurses and professionals on board who have a similar passion and ethos.
We work as a team and most of us have day jobs in the NHS.
It can be tough at times, as we feel like we are doing two full time jobs. However, working in the NHS has also given us that strong grounding in working collaboratively and supporting each other.
When one of us is struggling, another will step up and support.
Through this project, we realised the skills and resilience that being mental health nurses has given us, and we rely on these skills a lot to get through these tough times.
Overall, our passion to prevent people ending up at crisis point, spurs us on to keep going, alongside the passion to support our community to be able to have open conversations about their Mental Health.
Should ‘Alternative’ Treatments Become Mainstream?
I do believe that people should be able to explore and have choice in their wellness, however, there are circumstances where the kind of treatment I provide in my private practice is not appropriate in NHS work, and I respect that.
There are lots of complementary and alternative therapies and approaches that are starting to be recognised and offered already in the NHS or other commissioned services.
Mindfulness is now widely recognised as an effective therapeutic tool and we offer this widely in Mental Health services now.
It is no longer really seen as ‘alternative’.
‘Alternative’ Treatments Should Be Paid For By The NHS
There is such a need for Mental Health services at present, particularly considering the ongoing difficulties caused by COVID-19.
The pressures are huge.
These treatments are not necessarily a core part of what the NHS can and should offer.
However, there are lots of other routes to funding choice-based therapies for people who want that choice.
The NHS will always need to prioritise funding for the evidence-based approaches which are tried and tested, but having my own business means I have the benefit of being able to access support and funding by other means.
Are NHS Nurses Given The Option To Take Courses In Alternative Treatments?
Yes, occasionally opportunities arise, but these are rare.
My own training was entirely self-funded and done in my own time.
However, the grounding my Mental Health Nursing degree gave me undoubtedly led me along this path and so was part of the journey.
Nursing is a very vocational training and so we often feel it is all we can do.
However, once you step into other projects you realise how many transferrable skills you have and how valuable your skills are.
If you want to enhance your skills by learning outside of the NHS model, then it is about making a decision to invest in yourself, and personally I do not regret that decision at all.
Advice I Would Give To Someone Interested In Complementary Therapies Who Is Also Working As A Nurse
I would strongly advise that you stay respectful of the evidence base and remember that complementary and alternative therapies are a choice and not a first line treatment.
Set out strong boundaries from the start and know the difference between the service you offer in your private practice and your responsibilities as a nurse.
If you are interested in training in a complementary therapy, do your research and make sure that you invest in a training company which is affiliated with a voluntary register, such as the Complementary and National Healthcare Council (CNHC).
Also remember to respect your registration and the NMC code, as even though you are not working with someone as a nurse you will still need to uphold your personal standards.
Do not be afraid to signpost people to mainstream therapies if you feel this is more appropriate and always talk through the options with them.
Invest in business insurance and ensure that you declare your private practice with your NHS trust or workplace for any potential conflict of interests.