Lauren Caruana - Nursing Associate to Registered Mental Health Nurse
I started my Nursing Associate journey in 2017 in the first cohort for HPFT. It felt overwhelming at times when in class, as it consisted of health care assistants from all fields of nursing with a wide variety of skills; hospice, midwifery, general, paeds, mental health. But the integration of all of those fields in one room was invaluable in being able to learn from and share knowledge and experiences. Placements challenged me beyond my comfort zone of familiarity through getting to experience all the fields of nursing across the life span. This encouraged me to practice and improve on my areas of weakness through utilising new and existing clinical skills. This allowed me to develop more skills and confidence whilst also demonstrating my strengths of communication from within mental health nursing to my placement areas. On qualifying as a Registered Nursing Associate this enabled me to think more creatively about how the skills I learnt could be developed in my own team to further improve the services that we deliver, which is what lead to the development our team now having our own ECG clinic, lead by Nursing Associates and overseen by the consultant.
To further enhance my confidence in this new role I also completed the Florence Nightingale leadership programme, which again allowed me to connect with other Registered Nursing Associates and gain insight into just how versatile this role can be in all fields of nursing. It also gave me an opportunity to help influence the development of the role of Nursing Associates in other trusts, through sharing my journey and experience in presentations and taking part in conferences. In addition it has lead to an increase of Nursing Associate roles within my own team, which has enabled the opportunity for Nursing Associates with a variety of skills from other nursing fields to join and further improve our service.
In 2020 I proceeded to do my top up to mental health nursing, and qualified this year returning to the CAMHS Community Eating Disorders team that supported me from being a support worker to Registered Nursing Associate and finally as an RMN (a registered nurse with specialist training in mental health nursing). Going through that developmental process I really feel made me more confident in my practice and in the field of community nursing.
I think one of the biggest differences I make as a mental health nurse is giving hope to families that recovery is possible. I am amazed by the growth in families I work with through treatment, seeing their relationships together grow stronger, whilst supporting their young person with an eating disorder to recover.
Additionally with the experience of navigating myself through the journey of Nursing Associate, I now have the pleasure of being able to support and mentor one of my colleagues who has now started her own journey to being a Nursing Associate.
Not only is it incredibly rewarding to support a young persons recovery from an eating disorder in addition to supporting the entire family. But the ethos of the team is so strong and supportive that even on those rocky days when the demands on us weigh heavy, everyone pulls together to help share the load. Which has been so needed whilst navigating through the challenges of COVID-19 and the increased demands on our workloads. I work with incredibly skilled colleagues all of who are always willing to help when needed, share their knowledge and experience, but also care for your wellbeing. Our manager is also a beacon in the team who always acknowledges the hard work of everyone and is always on hand for support and advice.
What makes my role special? Being able to see a child regain their sparkle as their bodies and minds become healthier through recovery. An eating disorder can change so much of a young persons personality and manipulate their behaviours, changing the dynamics within a family hugely. But as treatment progresses and the young person and family fight the illness together you see their strength shine as a team together.