Carol, ECT Charge Nurse, NHS Lanarkshire

Carol works as an electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) charge nurse. ECT nurses are mental health nurses who who also work in a theatre setting, as ECT is performed under anaesthetic. Read her story to find out how she progressed into this role.

What attracted you to a career in the NHS?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school. Both my parents and grandmother were psychiatric nurses in the local psychiatric hospital. When I finished secondary school I got an interview for a summer relief post at the hospital where my parents worked and was successful at interview. I never imagined how a spur-of-the-moment decision would change my life.

I started my nursing career as an auxiliary nurse, before leaving the post to complete my nursing training. I got my first job as a staff nurse in an adult acute admission ward, where I remained for 10 years. It was this ward where I moved into my current role as an ECT charge nurse.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I have two roles in my job. One is as an ECT charge nurse and the other is as the chair of the committee of ECT Nurses Scotland (CONECTS). ECT treatment is an effective treatment for some types of severe mental health conditions. It is usually considered when other treatment options, such as psychotherapy or medication, have not been successful, or when someone is very unwell and needs urgent treatment.

ECT therapy is treated like a day-case surgical procedure that requires preoperative preparation and postoperative care. My role as the ECT lead nurse is to receive referrals, liaising with the referral and treatment teams. This is to make sure that each patient has been fully assessed and prepared prior to their first, and subsequent, ECT treatments.

I work alongside an amazing core team of staff made up of psychiatrists, anaesthetists, anaesthetic and recovery nurses. ECT nurses are unique in mental health as we have such a broad range of skills in mental and physical health, because we work closely with anaesthetic colleagues.

What’s the best part of your day?

The best part of my day is having the privilege to be able to see patients recover from a severe mental health condition.

What are the most important skills for an ECT nurse?

The most important skill for an ECT nurse is communication. Visiting patients before the treatment begins is an important part of the role. We provide both verbal and written information to all patients and their carers prior to the course of ECT treatment starting.

ECT nurses require a good knowledge of up-to-date ECT care and practice, as well as having experience and knowledge of mental health nursing and taking care of patients undergoing anaesthetic surgical procedures. General experience and knowledge of managing a department and being part of a multidisciplinary team are also necessary.

What makes you proud to work in the NHS?

I am proud that I am contributing to the health and wellbeing of people every day.

What advice would you give to others thinking about becoming an ECT nurse in the NHS?

ECT nursing is unique in mental health in that it is very different to the standard mental health nurse role. It’s the only job in mental health that works alongside registered general nurses in a theatre setting dedicated to mental health patients.

If you are looking for a job filled with rewarding challenges and want to make a difference in people’s lives, then this could be the right career path for you.