Gearoid, Clinical Academic Mental Health Nurse, NHS Lothian

Gearoid is a clinical academic mental health nurse. His dual role means he spends half of his time working at a university, teaching and doing research, and the other half working as a nurse specialist in liaison psychiatry.

Hello, I’m Gearoid and I’m a clinical academic mental health nurse. And what that means is that I spend half my week working in a university, doing teaching and research, and the other half I work as a nurse specialist in liaison psychiatry in the NHS.

So, my nursing journey started back in Ireland when I was studying for my first degree and I got a part-time job in a local service for people with learning disabilities. And I ended up spending most of my time working in the mental health unit, in that unit. So, it was specialist service – mental health service – for people with learning disability, and I absolutely loved it.

So, my typical day. I don't really have a typical day – and I think a lot of nurses will probably say that – it really depends what I’m doing in that day. So, if I’m in academia, I am either having face-to-face teaching on campus, or I’m at home, maybe preparing an online lecture or delivering an online lecture. I could be having some meetings around practice learning, or I could be involved in some research meetings. I could actually be collecting some data as part of a research study, it really just depends.

My clinical role, that has a little bit more of a rhythm to it, albeit it is still really, really varied. And I suppose how my day starts off is me picking up the pager. It means getting a handover from the out-of-hours team, hearing if there's anyone waiting for me to go and see.

I usually start my day by going into the emergency department and visiting all the different sections there and seeing if there's anyone waiting for mental health assessment, catching up with my colleagues in there as well too, seeing how they're getting on. They might inform me of some patients who they haven't quite seen yet but they think I might need to see later, and that's always good. So, you're able to kind of have a bit of an idea in your in your head about how your day might go.

Then I have—we usually have an MDT [multi-disciplinary team] meeting and that's with the nurses in the team, with our medical colleagues, junior doctors, and consultants, and we usually get a handover from the clinical toxicologist. And from that then we divvy up the work and we all, we all chip in – it doesn't matter our background – we all chip in and see patients there. And once all that's, kind of, tied up, the rest of the day really just varies.

I could be on duty, which means I am on covering the pager for the emergency department, so that that people get seen just as quickly for a mental health issue as they do for their physical health. Or I could be in an outpatient clinic, seeing patients who have maybe previously [been] assessed in crisis and in distress, and I’m bringing them back and doing some interventions with them to try and help, kind of, reduce that distress and support them a bit more.

What makes me proud to be a nurse? I think lots of things, first of all I have fantastic colleagues and they make me really proud to be a nurse. Some of the work that they do is just phenomenal, and they really actually do inspire me to keep going and to be better. So, I think that's what makes me really proud to be a nurse.

Also, the number of people that nurses help on a day-to-day basis, in such variety of settings. Everyone kind of thinks, nursing, you're working in a hospital and that's not true. Nurses can be found in nearly every single setting possible. They are in people's houses, they're in community centres, they're working in parish centres, attached to churches, they're in GP practices, they're in prisons, they're everywhere. And I just think the breadth of nursing work, and all the phenomenal work that you do to improve patient outcomes and prevent harm, is really, really inspiring and it makes me really, really proud to be a nurse.

The advice I’d give to other people, who are thinking of becoming nurses, is first of all speak to other nurses and don't just speak to people who work in one role, okay. The variety of roles that nurses undertake are so varied and diverse and you might not actually even realise the scope of roles that nurses undertake. I’d also say it's really important to know what the entry requirements are for nursing and what, kind of, you need to do. So, sometimes, maybe if you are coming to nursing a bit later in life, you might need to, maybe, redo that higher or standard in science, or in biology, or chemistry. And it's just, kind of, maybe knowing about that before applying.

There is no wrong time to do your nursing and, in my cohort, when I was a student, the age ranged from 18 right up to 55. There is no wrong time, and that's what makes it such a great profession is that it attracts people from really, really diverse backgrounds sometimes, who have done the most weird and wonderful things, and are actually able to bring that to patient care and to make patients’ care better.

Research what roles are out there, see what gets you excited, look at the entry requirements, and just go for it.


Where did your nursing journey start?

My nursing journey started back in Ireland when I was studying for my first degree. I got a part-time job in a local service for people with learning disabilities. I ended up spending most of my time working in the mental health unit there. This was a specialist mental health service for people with learning disabilities, and I absolutely loved it.

Can you tell us what a typical day is like for you?

I don't really have a typical day – and I think a lot of nurses will say that – it really depends what I’m doing on that day. If I’m in the university, I am either doing face-to-face teaching on campus or I’m at home, preparing or delivering an online lecture. I could also be having some meetings around practice learning or research, or collecting some data as part of a research study.

My clinical role has a little bit more of a rhythm to it, although it is still varied. My day starts off getting a handover from the out-of-hours team, to find out if there's anyone waiting for me to go and see. Then I usually start by going into the emergency department to see if there's anyone waiting for a mental health assessment.

I’ll also catch up with my colleagues in there, to see how they're getting on. They might inform me of some patients who they haven't been able to see but I might need to visit later, and that's always good. This means I’m able to have an idea in my head about how my day might go.

Then we usually have a multi-disciplinary team meeting. That’s when the nurses in the team, medical colleagues, junior doctors, and consultants all get together. We usually get a handover from the clinical toxicologist, from which we are able to divide up the work for the day. We all chip in – it doesn't matter what our background is – we all chip in and see patients there.

The rest of the day varies. If I am on duty, then I am covering the pager for the emergency department. This way I can ensure that people get seen as quickly for a mental health issue as they do for their physical health. If I am in an outpatient clinic, I could be supporting patients who were in crisis or distress and have already had their assessment, trying to reduce that distress.

What makes you proud to be a nurse?

First of all, I have fantastic colleagues and they make me really proud to be a nurse. Some of the work that they do is just phenomenal. They are the ones who inspire me to keep going and to be better.

Also, the number of people that we help on a day-to-day basis, in such variety of settings. Everyone thinks that if you are a nurse then you're working in a hospital and that's not true. Nurses can be found in nearly every single setting possible. They are in people's houses, community centres, parish centres attached to churches, GP practices, prisons, the list goes on. They're everywhere. It makes me so proud to be a nurse when I think of the breadth of the profession – the amazing work nurses do to improve people’s lives – and that I am a part of that.

What advice would you give to others thinking about becoming a nurse?

The advice I’d give to someone who is thinking of becoming a nurse is to find some nurses and speak to them. Don't just speak to people who work in one role, as well. The variety of roles that nurses do is so varied and diverse so you might not even realise the extent of what being a nurse means.

I’d also say it's important to know what the entry requirements are for nursing. If you are coming to nursing later in life, you might need to refresh your knowledge in some way to be able to enrol on the course.

There is no wrong time to do your nursing qualifications and that's what makes it such a great profession. When I was a student, the age range was from 18 right up to 55 years old. It attracts people from diverse backgrounds, people who have done weird and wonderful things in their lives. People who can bring that to patient care and to make patients’ care better.

Research what roles are out there, see what gets you excited, look at the entry requirements, and just go for it.

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