Pete Croft is a Mental Health Nurse at the McGuinness Unit, he talks about his experiences.

No two days the same

I’ve been a Registered Mental Health Nurse at the McGuiness Unit for four years now and I’ve never had two days that are the same. When patients come through those doors you have to be open-minded and ready for anything that might come your way.

When a new patient arrives they can be extremely frightened with the idea of arriving in this strange place, so part of my role is to ensure that they have an easy introduction to the unit and try and make it seem less like a place they’ve been forced to come to. I like to think that this helps them settle in; despite the fact they may be distressed or troubled due to their mental health.

After showing patients and their families around the building, my focus is to complete the admission process. I will ask a doctor to undertake a physical examination, provide patients with details of their stay, such as what to expect when being a patient here, when they have their one to one session and who their named nurse is. Once they’ve settled in, I have to make sure all the clinical admission paperwork associated with a new patient, such as liaising with the pharmacy for medication, mental state exams and Mental Health Act paperwork is done. The paperwork side of things can be very time consuming, but it’s needed to complete a comprehensive assessment for each patient.

The nursing support and care I provide to the patients whilst they are at the McGuiness Unit varies every day and that’s what makes it interesting. I can be spending time with a young person, discussing their inner most thoughts and concerns and helping them to develop some resilience and coping strategies, then the next minute I can be managing the aftermath of a serious incident where a young person needs support to manage their emotions. Once that is dealt with I can be organising activities for patients in conjunction with the Occupational Therapy Team or attending reviews to discuss progress of individual patients. It changes minute-by-minute and can be a challenging, but it really is a rewarding job.

Vulnerable patients

Being there for the patients who at times are very vulnerable, supporting them when they may feel distressed and can harm themselves or others is a big part of what we do here. These situations can be quite tense but the most important part of this role is being there for someone when things aren’t going well. We have a number of people who self-harm and dressing their wounds has become a part of my role that isn’t something I enjoy, but I know that the effort I make after the event with that patient is something they need. The worst thing would be to just be negative with the young person and not allow them to talk about their problems that have led to them self-harming.

A lot of the people who come through here find a real comfort in someone just simply lending them an ear and allowing them to talk about their issues. As a nurse, something as simple as talking and being a friendly face can help develop a flicker of hope that their situation can get better. When you see those young people you’ve helped making progress it’s something that makes you come back into work each day.

In the documentary you can see me trying to lift the spirits of one of our service users with a bit of humour, and through simply telling a joke (albeit a bad one!) you can change that person’s perception of how their day is going or how well their treatment is progressing. I know that the time I take to listen to their concerns, or chat to them about daily life in the unit can really make a difference.

Being a Mental Health Nurse

Working in Mental Health and being a registered nurse wasn’t actually my first career choice… before this I was a policeman for Greater Manchester Police for a couple of years. There are aspects of both jobs that are similar, especially when you have to deal with confrontation. The unit has a number of people who suffer from mental health issues that could lead them to act aggressively towards other service users or patients, and part of my role is to ensure that those instances don’t escalate. I’m sure that if you asked some of the young people in the unit they would probably say that we are trying to control them, but the reality is I’m there to protect their welfare whilst they receive care, and although that does mean having to restrain people or be authoritative at times, it is only done with their best interests at heart.

Being a mental Health Nurse isn’t a job you get into for the money, you do it so you can help people get better, and seeing the progress young people make from when they come in to when they leave, whatever length of time that is, makes you proud of what you’ve done to help them. The job can be stressful, but at the same time the reward of helping someone who hasn’t really begun their life and getting them back on track is what we’re all here for.