Katie Varley - Preceptorship
My journey into mental health nursing began many years before I began my studies and career. I was a young teen when I first started to experience mental ill health. It wasn’t until I started to receive treatment that I realised I wasn’t alone in my experiences. My journey was long and shrouded in fear and shame, and my experience of mental health services was often disappointing. However, it is the shining moments of care and kindness shown to me by mental health professionals and service users that I held on to and remember most clearly. As I grew older and went on with my life, I vowed that I would give that kindness back to other people that needed it.
I completed an undergraduate degree and worked in the finance sector before deciding to keep my promise and retrain as a mental health nurse. I moved 200 miles across the country to return to my family home whilst I completed a Masters in Mental Health Nursing programme at the University of Hertfordshire. I enjoyed studying the theory behind mental illnesses and their biopsychosocial treatment, but it was my clinical placements that taught me the most about being a nurse. I listened to people with psychosis as they explained their fear of something I could not see. I made risk management plans with people so depressed that they couldn’t keep themselves safe. I reminisced with people with dementia. I helped people that had just come out of hospital rebuild their lives and make college or job applications. When I completed my studies and graduated as a registered mental health nurse I’d learnt that the most important skill in mental health nursing is to help people help themselves.
I have now been working as a Registered Mental Health Nurse in the community for four months. Part of my role is to work in the clinics. This involves assessing and monitoring side effects of specific medication, taking blood samples and administering long-acting injections and examining the mental state and wellbeing of people as they come to see us. I also have a case load of patients that I see on a regular basis as a care coordinator. I work with each patient to identify where they need support, and whether they would benefit from medication, psychological input or social support. I refer to and work with other service providers to make sure they receive the care that they need and meet with the patient regularly to support them to live their life as independently as possible. As a newly registered nurse, I am beginning to come to terms with the responsibilities of my job and continuing to learn new ways of supporting people with different needs.
The transition between student nurse and registered nurse felt sudden. I am thankful to be in a nurse preceptorship programme, which bridges the gap between the two roles. The preceptorship programme places me in a group of other newly qualified nurses working in different areas across the Trust. We meet once a month for study sessions and seminars. It is reassuring to be in contact with nurses at the same stage as me to share experiences and advice about our different job roles. During these sessions an experienced practitioner presents topics from infection control to conflict management, helping us to hone our skills during our first year of nursing. The preceptorship programme encourages workplace mentors to support and assess our nursing skills whilst on the job. 2-weekly meetings with my preceptor have been so reassuring to me during these first few months as it gives me the opportunity to ask for help without worrying about judgement. Being part of the preceptorship programme allows me to stay up to date with best practice and technique whilst I build up my experience of nursing interventions. It also helps my preceptor gain confidence in my abilities and identify areas that I need to improve. Achieving predefined skillsets is especially helpful in my specialised role in the community, as there are some skills that I don’t often come across in my every day work, so might not have practised without my preceptorship. I am proud to work as a preceptee Mental Health Nurse in a career with such varied opportunities and rewards.