As you are probably all aware, this blog is a blog about mental health.
If you weren’t aware and thought this was actually a blog offering gardening tips, then I am sorry to disappoint you, but I really have no advice to offer in that department so you may want to look elsewhere for tips. All I know is that you should water your plants…but not too much…and plants need sunlight…but then some like to be in cool dark cupboards…yeah like I said I really am not qualified or experienced as a gardener…ANYWAY, browsing the titles of my current collection of posts I have noticed that most of them are aimed at people with mental health problems, but what about a post centred around the people who spend their lives trying to treat those without marbles? How do they feel about working with the mentally ill? What do they like about the job and which parts make them wish they had steered clear of the anxious and the depressed inhabitants of this godforsaken planet, to pursue a career in fish mongering instead? What makes them dream of swapping therapy for cod and medication side effects for a nice piece of haddock? What advice do they have for people thinking about becoming a mental health professional and how does one go about following that dream? If the mentally ill are plants, who are the gardeners providing enough warmth for seed germination and growth? (Please note I just used the word germination…that is a gardening term…maybe I am more qualified in that department than I realised). Well, if you have wanted to know the answers to any of these questions and even if you haven’t, I am here today to give them to you anyway in a hard hitting interview with a real, qualified mental health nurse working on the ward in which I currently reside. Prepare yourself for the secrets of the mental health professionals, the story behind the shift work and a very confused nurse wondering what on earth I am talking about…
LIGHTS GO UP.
[The nurse and I are seated in blue chairs in a place known as “the quiet room”. The conversation begins whilst the sound of the cleaner mopping slops rhythmically in the background]
Me: Hello Nurse Gertrude Potatobucket, thank you so much for joining me today for this interview.
Gertrude Potatobucket: What interview? Who is Gertrude Potatobucket?
Me: This interview. I want to know about the life of a mental health nurse for an article on my blog. Also you are Gertrude Potatobucket for the duration of this interaction because I am hiding your real name in the interest of confidentiality, so you can be brutally honest as nobody will know your true identity.
GP: I will agree to the interview but can’t I pick another name? Why does it have to be Gertrude Potatobucket? That sounds ridiculous.
Me: I will have you know it is not at all ridiculous but is an underused name that deserves more recognition, so no, you cannot pick an alternative. Anyway, I’m supposed to be the one asking questions here so please just accept your new identity and lets get to the good stuff.
GP: Katie I really think…
Me: [In a loud and interrupting manner] QUESTION ONE. WHAT DOES BEING A MENTAL HEALTH NURSE ENTAIL?
GP: [Sighs…there is a long pause during which the sound of mopping appears to increase in volume until Nurse Potatobucket realises that she is going to take part in an interview whether she likes it or not and gets on with answering the question at hand]. The role of a mental health nurse is different depending on what kind of service you are working for but in terms of my responsibilities on this Eating Disorder Unit, I am in charge of co-ordinating health care assistants on shift, running support groups, working with patients in 1:1 sessions, supporting them at meal times and I am in charge of handing out any medication prescribed by Doctors or psychiatrists.
Me: What a busy bee you are! I can almost hear you buzzing, your face is practically aglow with black and yellow stripes. So tell me Gertrude, how did you earn such responsibility? How does one go about becoming a mental health nurse? What training is required?
GP: To be a mental health nurse you need to have at least 5 GCSE’s including maths, English and Science and then go to university for three years to study mental health nursing. You don’t have to go to university to work in mental health though. If someone wanted to be a Health Care Assistant they would need to have something called a care certificate, but it is possible to get a job as an HCA without any official training. If someone has experience in mental health and does a good interview for a job, they may be offered a position and then have the opportunity to do the care certificate whilst working.
Me: Well to qualify alone sounds like a lot of fun but how about the job itself? What would you say is the best thing about being a mental health nurse?
GP: Supporting people and helping them to make positive changes in their lives.
Me: How nice. I don’t want to paint a misleadingly fluffy picture about the job though so tell me, what is the worst thing about being a mental health nurse?
GP: You see some really sad and upsetting stuff. Also shift work can be difficult as you never have a fixed schedule or routine and can be working at day or night depending on your rota. That said I know that “Bertha Potatonose” likes shift work as it enables her to be flexible when looking after her children, so it is different for everyone. Oh God I have just used her real name, can you cut that bit out?
Me: No need, I will simply hide her identity by replacing her real name with Bertha Potatonose.
GP: What is it with you using the word potato in fake surnames?…
Me: [Even louder and more interrupting than the first time the interviewee started to question the interviewer] QUESTION FIVE: HOW DOES BEING A MENTAL HEALTH NURSE AFFECT YOUR DAILY LIFE AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO WANTED TO BE A MENTAL HEALTH NURSE?
GP: [Sighs. Despair at the situation is visible. The cleaner is still mopping in background]. First off I would advise someone to get some life experience or experience as an HCA. Secondly I would say that in terms of daily life you really need to learn to leave work at work and look out for your own wellbeing at home. You can’t look after someone else unless you have first looked after yourself.
Me: Does this mean there any people then that you would advise to avoid looking into being a mental health nurse? Are there any people you feel would be particularly unsuited to the role?
GP: No. It can be a difficult job but anyone can be a mental health nurse. Different people bring different life experiences, skills and character to the job and I think that is important. Mental illnesses don’t all fit into a neat box and neither do the people who are able to be great Mental Health Nurses.
Me: Inspiring. Truly inspiring.
Now Ms Potatobucket, I know that the people at home often worry when speaking to a mental health professional in candid honesty about their condition that they will be thought of as “crazy” or “weird”. Answer me honestly, do mental health nurses ever judge patients regarding what they say in a session?
GP: No, there is never any judgement. All I feel towards people talking about their difficulties is empathy and I want to show compassion towards the difficult time they are having in life.
Me: Well that is a relief. I am sure we will all rest easier in our beds tonight knowing that we can spill our inner most thoughts without fear of being thought to be “weird”. In addition to worries like that, a lot of people in treatment out there may also be struggling at the moment and feeling like things will never get better. Do you think recovery from a mental illness is ever really possible?
GP: Definitely. All mental health nurses hold the hope and belief that the people they are treating can get to a better place. I think everyone is capable of building the strength and determination not to let their mental health problem rule them forever, and in learning skills they can gain confidence they may not have had initially in fighting their issues.
Me: Fascinating stuff Gertrude. Truly fascinating. Now finally. The question everyone at home has been waiting for and the most important piece of information in all of this. Tell me, has being a mental health nurse in any way altered the opinion you hold with regard to penguins?
GP: What does that have to do with working in mental health?
Me: [Incandescent with rage at being asked a third question during the interview] MS POTATOBUCKET
GP: Oh for goodness sake ok, yes, being a mental health nurse has given me a new found appreciation for penguins.
Me: Aha! Just as I expected! Gosh! Looking at my watch it appears we are all out of time! Thank you so much for answering these questions Nurse Potatobucket. Your honesty and words will touch millions. On behalf of all my readers please know that we are eternally grateful.
GP: Can I go now?
[Interview ends. The sound of mopping in the background has stopped. Upon leaving the room the cleaner is nowhere to be found and only a mop lies in the corridor. The cleaner has not been seen since…]
FADE TO BLACK
Well there you have it! The hard nitty gritty truth about what it is like to work as a Mental Health nurse, how to become one, and how such a career can affect one’s opinion on monochrome birds who refuse to comply with society’s expectations and use their wings to fly. I really hope that this helped people out there either if they are thinking about becoming a Mental Health Professional or those in treatment worrying about what carers in an inpatient setting may be thinking. It appears there is no judgement when it comes to working with the marble-less hoards and no matter how it feels at the time, it seems there is always hope and the potential to recover.
Now if you don’t mind me I am going to abandon my job as journalist for the day and turn to a little detective work. I really am getting worried about the case of the mysteriously disappearing cleaner that took place during this interview…any witness statements would be appreciated in the comments.
I will speak to you all next Monday, take care x
13 thoughts on “Unveiling The Secrets Of Life As A Mental Health Nurse”
This is great! I’ve always wanted to know what Mental Health nurses actually think. Would be interested to see what Community Psychiatric Nurses & Psychiatrists say are the best & worst parts of their jobs. Will this be the first of many potato & penguin themed interviews?! Love your blog regardless 😉 Xx
Aww thank you so much, I am glad someone found it interesting! I think I will definitely have to consider interviewing more mental health professionals although I doubt I will ever find someone as enthusiastic as dear Gertrude PotatoBucket here. Really appreciate you being so kind about my blog, I hope you are having a marvellous day and know I am sending love and support 😘❤️ xx
Aww 🙂 no thank YOU for writing such an insightful blog for us all to read! So glad I saw Rosie post the link to your blog on Facebook ages ago 🙂 sending love & support back at ya! 😍 Xox
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I really enjoyed reading this and found it very interesting (as well as amusing – I just love your sense of humour!). I know quite a few people who are interested in mental health nursing as a career, so I will definitely be sharing this. If all the nurses in your hospital are like Gertrude Potatobucket, then it seems like you are in a pretty decent environment with dedicated, committed staff and I this makes me hopeful that you are getting the help you need. Keep strong x
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Yay! Thank you so much, honestly you are such a little morale boost when it comes to my posts, I should really send you picture of a penguin to express my gratitude or something…if you are ever up for that, DM me your address and it will be so! Thank you for always being so supportive of both me and my blog. I hope you are getting all the help you need to and that I am always here to assist if I can. Keep fighting xx
This really made me laugh tonight! God I now want you to do this to your consultant with an even more hilarious name. you are so fab Katie 😂 this is now my favourite blog xx
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Hehe thank you so much, this comment has made me laugh with joy this morning! Your ability to write such lovely comments that never fail to cheer me up prove that you are pretty fab yourself. If there were awards for favourite readers you would definitely have one!…maybe that should be a thing…I will keep you updated…Thank you so much for this boost today, hoping you are ok and sending lots of love and support xxxx
God Katie, your posts just keep getting better and better! I simply LOVE your blog!!
This was so funny (I laughed so hard) and also very interesting.
sending lots of love :*
Kisses from Portugal ❤
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Aww thank you! I jolly hope that I am able to live up to such a compliment! Glad I managed to give you a smile today at least, you deserve all the smiles! Sending lots of love, support and kisses from England 😘❤️
Great read! Always love the tone you set in your pieces. Humorous and interesting, while still hitting the main topic at its core. I enjoyed reading this post.
When I was hospitalized (for MANY things, including depression and an eating disorder) we often talked about our anxiety and depression in therapy. And on days our therapist was sick, we’d have one of the nurses come in to talk to us instead. And we all wondered if it would work because these nurses all appeared fine on the surface. But God could they relate. They were so easy to talk to. A part of me still wonders what those nurses thought while taking care of us though. Giving us our anxiety medications and helping us when we get panic attacks or break down. Nothing but the upmost respect for them.
Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂
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Aww thank you so much, that is so lovely of you to say! I aim to please! Sorry to hear you have been hospitalised before because being hospitalised sucks. Then again there is the silver lining of sometimes meeting the professionals who work there and getting their support can be life changing. I completely agree with you. Total respect for those people. Hope you are well xxx
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Prof Francesca recommended your blog and I’ve been reading it lately and I really love it. I’ve laughed and shed some tears and also felt deeply moved by your posts about eating desorders and depression. Your sense of humor is on point and I’ve learned a lot. What you’re creating here is very important and necessary.
I really hope the best for you and send you good vibes. Keep going. 🙂
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Wow! Thank you so much and thank you professor Francesca! You are both now on my list of favourite people. Hearing positive feedback about my writing really is all I want in life and my biggest motivation to keep fighting so this comment means a lot. I promise I will never give up! Seriously thank you so much for brightening my morning. I hope you are having a wonderful day and please know that I am wafting a lot of gratitude and happy vibes in your direction 😊 xx