In his multi-faceted and non-traditional role, nurse therapist Clyde Wright is helping to improve mental health care, and particularly the treatment offered to individuals with personality disorders
With a small laugh, clinical nurse specialist Clyde Wright tells me he used to be a chef.
Now, he spends his days as a nurse therapist in the forensic psychology department of Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust. To Mr Wright, his diverse career has been a somewhat natural — but extremely rewarding — progression.
Mr Wright decided to end his cooking career and embark on health care when he married and started a family; he felt his previous job was not conducive to family life.
“I liked working with people, and a health care assistant job came up in a local mental health hospital, so I thought I’d give that a go,” Mr Wright says. “I found I really enjoyed it.”
After four years in this role, Mr Wright spent a year in the south of France but when he returned he began his nurse training. Mr Wright took on various nursing roles, eventually working his way up to nurse specialist. He has been a clinical nurse specialist for six years and is now on a master’s course in family therapy.
Mr Wright wears many hats at his current workplace. He is the lead for a mentalisation-based therapy group where he plans and runs groups largely for men diagnosed with personality disorder. He supervises hospital staff, trains staff groups and carries a caseload of therapy clients. He also serves as a site-lead — there are 11 sites in total — for a research trial on mentalisation-based therapy for anti-social personality disorders.
“We learn about how they see the world of mental health from their point of view”
As one of only four nurses trading hospital wards for Oxleas’ psychology department, Mr Wright’s career falls short of nothing but impressive. He notes that there are obstacles in being a nurse in a psychologists’ environment. For instance, psychologists typically have career pathways they can follow, whereas nurse therapists often have to “beat their own path”. But he remains positive and says there are many advantages to a non-traditional nursing environment.
“[Working with psychologists] provides nurses with a fantastic opportunity to be among a different professional context,” Mr Wright says. “We learn about how they see the world of mental health from their point of view.”
As a result of the advantages and challenges, Mr Wright has taken on another responsibility by creating a support group for nurse therapists to meet once a month. Because nurse therapists have different professional identities to psychologists, this group provides a platform where nurse therapists can discuss the experiences that come with working in psychology.
“It’s quite a rich scene of experiences we share”
“It’s quite a rich scene of experiences we share,” he says. “I felt … perhaps the dilemmas and challenges of working in the department would be useful to talk about monthly to work, process and know how to address any issues constructively.”
In the end, regardless of any obstacles, it’s his desire to help others and understand a complex area of health care that drives Mr Wright.
“I encourage anyone interested in that field to pursue it because it’s very rewarding,” he says. “It’s very challenging, but very rewarding. You learn a lot about the patient group and also about yourself and how you relate to others.”
“I felt mental health wasn’t understood. I didn’t even understand it”
When he first started his career, not many people saw past the stigmas surrounding mental health. This immediately attracted Mr Wright to the profession as he saw it as an opportunity to really make a difference. Now, he says he sees progress in the field of mental health and effective treatments.
“One doesn’t always have to take a passive position,” Mr Wright says. “As a health care assistant I was really interested in mental health. I felt it wasn’t understood. I didn’t even understand it.”
But with a passion to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health and improve treatment, he has played a role in progressing the field.
Mr Wright is an example from which we all could grasp an important lesson: Find what sparks your interest and pursue it.