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ROLE MODEL

Ever boxed with a patient?

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Emma Selby found that unconventional methods resulted in unrivalled results with her patients

Emma Selby

Ever boxed with a patient? Or taken them for a run?

Emma Selby has.

The 24-year old mental health nurse found it best to be actively involved in her patients’ care in the true sense of the word. She began using less conventional, more active, methods - such as boxing and running - when working with her patients. These began to revolutionise the way she and her colleagues addressed patient-centred care.

“When I was nursing in the community, it was very traditional: sit with patients for an hour a week and talk. It didn’t work for all my patients so I started to ask if they wanted to sit and talk or do something else. We’d go for a run, or box while we talked.

“My team started to pick up on it and we became much more creative in practice.”

Ms Selby felt her patients opened up to her more and began to see results - one patient in particular stood out.

“I made sure we did therapy how she wanted - be it in the park or the office - and she started to open up more”

“I had a patient who was only 14. She was self-harming and it was hard to see someone so young feel they had nothing to live for. I made sure we did therapy how she wanted - be it in the park or the office - and she started to open up more. I got a letter from her six months after she was out of therapy saying how well she was and that she was back at college. It was the most rewarding experience.”

Through her work in child adolescent mental health services at Brookside inpatient unit in London and later at Waltham Forest’s Child and Family Consultation Service, Ms Selby has discovered what she feels is the key to good patient-centred mental health care: “We have to take into account treating the patient how they want to be treated, not how we think they need to be treated.”

Other ways Ms Selby has implemented her ideals of merging mental and physical healthcare and putting patients first is through her sexual health alliance with the Terrence Higgins Trust. They set up a system so Ms Selby and her colleagues could test their patients for chlamydia and distribute contraceptives free of charge so they would not have to go to a physical healthcare unit they didn’t know or feel comfortable asking for these services.

“We gave the resources and they gave the training,” says Ms Selby. There was some controversy over providing contraception however.

“It’s not saying, ‘oh you’re having sex, here have some condoms”, it’s that we’re the ones who’ve talked with the patients… we need to make sure they have people they can discuss things with and places to access these resources. It’s about understanding that the voice of the young patient is the most important voice in the room - and it tends to be the quietest one.”

“It’s about understanding that the voice of the young patient is the most important voice in the room - and it tends to be the quietest one”

Ms Selby won the Nursing Times Rising Star Award in October 2014 but her win was unique - she was nominated for the award by her patients, not her peers or her manager.

One of her patients from the maternity pathway scheme wrote the presentation she gave to the judges; this patient’s story is Ms Selby’s confirmation that she is on the right path in nursing.

“She was one of my patients who was a heavy drug user and had no one there for her, so no one believed she should be able to take care of her baby. I got to help her give birth and help her through a difficult time - and now she’s a sensational mum”.

Winning the Rising Star Award was a great accomplishment that has propelled Ms Selby further in her career. She says: “I can never see myself leaving my work with adolescents - I love to work with younger people because they have so much potential. I’m hoping to develop and lead a parenting therapy programme.”

“I love to work with younger people because they have so much potential”

Ms Selby will speak at the Florence Nightingale Foundation Annual Conference in March and hopes she will be able to inspire the delegates.

“Being a young nurse in mental health is advantageous because you have so many creative ideas - you just need to know what you require to handle stress and what your managers can do to help contain you. If the audience learns one thing, I hope it is the importance of thinking outside of the box when it comes to patient-centred care.”

Emma Bleznak

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