Real-life story - Cherie Lawrence
Cherie became a mental health nurse after suffering post-natal depression as a teenager. Her career took off from there and she isn't looking back.
What made you decide to become a mental health nurse?
I became a mother unexpectedly at 17 and suffered from (post-natal) depression both during and after my pregnancy. Unfortunately at the time there wasn’t really that much information out there and neither me or my family really understood the condition. My doctor couldn’t offer much help either.
To try and understand it better I did a community mental health course and discovered a passion for the subject – I found it really fascinating.
At school, like many teenagers I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I had from quite a young age always admired nurses, after all we trust our lives with them don’t we – they’re the backbone of the NHS. So when I discovered a passion for the subject of mental health, becoming a mental health nurse seemed like the obvious thing to do. I also felt like becoming a mental health nurse would help me be a really positive role model for my daughter.
How did you become a mental health nurse?
I studied for my degree in mental health nursing at Nottingham University - I was actually the first person in my family to go to university, which was a little scary but I needn’t have worried as there’s so much support out there for nursing students.
I really enjoyed my degree and particularly the variety of placements I was given – I was able to get really valuable experience of working in hospital and community settings, with young people and old, including placements in forensics and working with people with functional dementia.
Nurses and particularly mental health nurses are really in demand so I was contacted about job opportunities all the way through my degree and was offered a choice of four jobs when I graduated! Being a nurse means that unlike quite a lot of other professions, you have a guaranteed job for life, which means I’m never going to have to worry about getting a job and providing for my daughter.
I’m so glad I chose to work for Nottinghamshire Healthcare, as they offer so much support and help for newly qualified nurses. I think some people worry about the responsibility they’ll have once they’re doing the job for real but Nottingham, like other Trusts runs an amazing preceptorship programme which helps bridge the gap between being a student nurse and a qualified nurse. They make sure you’re really supported, with regular group meetings and one to ones where you can discuss anything you need to and they make sure you have access to further training, such as safeguarding training.
What I do
I get to work with a variety of people and importantly, no two days are the same. I go to work each day never knowing what to expect, which keeps things really interesting.
I work with a range of patients across the hospital, with a variety of problems. I work as part of a team looks at every need of the patient including their physical health, diet and fluid intake and their mental wellbeing. I think some people view mental health nursing as being tough and while there are challenging times, there are also lots of lovely things that we get to do with patients, such as going out for a walk or shopping. This helps bring some normality and experience of life outside the ward. I love this aspect of the job.
The best bits
I love my job so it’s difficult to know where to start. I love the variety of people I get to meet including the amazing staff! I work a very supportive team that feels like my extended family and I am passionate about supporting and leading my team in their roles. I am also fortunate to be able to lead change and strongly believe that as staff we need to role model patient-centred care. It is incredibly rewarding to see the difference we make to the lives of our patients.
What's next and top tips for others
Nottingham is a fantastic place to work, not only is there lots of ongoing training to take part in but other opportunities as well, so I’ll be here for the foreseeable future.
I am a mentor. I teach at the University of Nottingham. I am an NHS ambassador for mental health nursing. I attend counsel meetings for my employer and I am leading on lots of projects. The opportunities are endless within my profession.
Next up for me is likely to be a ward manager's position, which my team and employer have supported me in preparing for.
I think it’s important for people to understand how much support and help there is for student and newly qualified nurses, how varied the job is and the opportunities out there for developing your career in the direction you want to take and continuing to learn new skills. I feel so proud of who I am today, proving everyone who doubted me wrong! Don’t let anything or anyone get in your way, just go out there and achieve those goals!
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