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'You choose nursing to change lives and be a part of a team'

Liz Brady
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The NHS lost more nurses than it recruited last year, and more than half of those who left were under the age of 40.

I’m a mental health nurse working in inner London. Now in the fourth year of my career, I’ve chosen to specialise in old age psychiatry – not the most obvious or glamorous choice for a 26-year-old, perhaps. So why, despite headlines warning us that plummeting salaries are forcing nurses to resort to food banks, do some of us continue to choose this career? 

“There is always someone there to lean on and learn from”

The stories. Living in the age of social media means that there’s plenty to read, see and hear, but that’s no match for hearing first hand about how it felt to be evacuated during a world war, or what it’s like to flee your homeland to start and rebuild a safer life for yourself in London.

In my experience, older people have the most remarkable stories to tell and I get to hear a new one almost everyday. Being able to hear such stories of strength, courage and perseverance is truly inspirational.

The chance to make a difference. It sounds cliché, but I really feel as though I have changed people’s lives for the better.

Have all clients that I have worked with conquered their depression? Unfortunately not, but I have witnessed some pretty incredible success stories and have seen people recover following a serious attempt on their life. Being able to aid someone’s recovery and bring them out of that darkness is a privilege.

The colleagues. I may be biased, but mental health professionals have the best sense of humour. Don’t get me wrong, we deal with very serious and distressing situations but it’s not all doom and gloom.

My colleagues have never failed to make me laugh on a daily basis, and I’ve never worked in such a nurturing and caring environment. There is always someone there to lean on and learn from, which makes even the worst days a bit more bearable 

The knowledge. Whether it’s advising my friend on which day centres will be best suited for her 90-year-old grandmother, or telling a relative how to manage their loved one’s dementia, this job has given me the knowledge to do so much.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council actively encourage continuous professional development, and there are always opportunities to advance your knowledge and grow as a clinician. I feel lucky that I am equipped with the information to help not only my clients, but my friends and family too.

The chance to restore people’s faith in the NHS. Let’s be honest, the NHS hasn’t had the greatest press in the past few years. I have lost count of the number of clients who have told me they don’t want to waste my time.

People shouldn’t have to thank me for taking the time to listen to them. It’s my job. While some people may have lost faith in the system, I have the chance to change their mind.

You don’t choose a career in nursing for the pay or the working hours. You choose to become a nurse to help people, to change lives and to be part of a team. I just hope that nurses are given the time and the platform to continue to do the jobs they love.

Liz Brady is band 6 community practitioner in a memory service at South London Healthcare Trust

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