As part of Mental Health Awareness Week ward manager, Angela Chambers shares more about her role within our Mental Health Service for Older People
My name is Angela Chambers and I have been a Registered Mental Health Nurse for 33 years. Currently, I work as a ward manager on Ward 21 in the Mental Health Service for Older People at North Tyneside General Hospital. As we head into Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to share a snapshot of my own experiences working within mental health.
There have been many changes during my career and I’m very proud to have been part of the revolution that has seen mental health care move from an asylum based institutional model of care to a person-centred approach, which continues to evolve each day.
My ward is a functional assessment unit for people over the age of 65 – this means our patients have become acutely unwell with illnesses such as depression, anxiety and psychosis. Patients who are admitted are provided with emotional support, therapies, medical care, meaningful activities and supportive discharge. Working in a hospital means we have excellent support networks and access to facilities which help us to manage some of our patients with complex conditions.
Our wards differ from typical hospital wards as they include quiet therapeutic spaces and gardens which patients are encouraged to tend to and look after as part of their therapy. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is nature – nature is central to our psychological and emotional health which is why it’s so important to use our space functionally. Throughout the pandemic, many of us turned to nature and this shows just how important green spaces can be for our mental health.
There are a variety of different roles within my team including community staff, psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, activities co-ordinators, domestic staff, administrative staff, leadership teams and ward-based nursing teams. I hold strong beliefs about supporting my team in all areas as I believe a well-supported team is a happy and productive team. This is one of the things I love most about working within Northumbria Healthcare – there is lots of support offered and available to staff including wellbeing, psychology and occupational health.
We must also take time to talk to our patients, aside from when delivering personal care. This involves sitting down and having real conversations, offering support, assessing and monitoring them. Making sure we have the time to invest in our patients by having conversations during their time of need is an essential part of our role.
Covid-19 of course has had a huge impact on our patients and our roles. Having been qualified for over 30 years I instinctively know when someone needs that therapeutic touch and it’s difficult knowing that when patients are feeling their lowest and need someone sat close to them we have to remain socially distanced and wear our PPE.
When I look back in years to come I will be proud knowing that I began my role here at Northumbria during a time when working in mental health services was challenging, but the support offered at every level was the best I’ve ever seen. I love my job and I am so proud of what my colleagues and I do.