My experience of working in adult mental health so far has very much been alone the lines of “you are a nurse, this is your patient, you give them treatment and that is it.”
I’m not saying that this is the same for everybody but as a student I felt unable to talk to my mentors about how a particular case might make me feel, as if it wasn’t the done thing. There were times during my first year when I thought I may not be cut out for this as some patients cases did make me feel emotional.
For the past month I’ve been on a CAMHS placement where a nurse’s thoughts and feelings about their patients are integral to their practice. Weekly team meetings aren’t just about working with a patient but also include how every member of the team feels. This shared amongst everybody with no judgement.There’s no shame in saying that working with a certain child makes you feel sad, frustrated, and protective, whatever the emotion may be. I suspect that this wouldn’t go down so well in my previous placements.
Maybe working with children naturally rouses more emotion in people
Other mental health professionals, such as psychologists and therapists, have to undergo mandatory therapy during their training to enable them to be offload any feelings they may be holding on to. Whilst nurses have clinical supervision this isn’t quite the same, and there very often isn’t time for students to have this opportunity. Would this be useful for student mental health nurses? For me, I feel like it would.
Maybe working with children naturally rouses more emotion in people. Perhaps there are adult services that do address this issue with staff. There is of course the issue of maintaining professional boundaries with your patients – showing your emotions inappropriately to your patient is of course a big no-no but nurses are not robots, we have feelings like anybody else.
I could write pages and pages about how much I have loved my CAMHS placement, but one of the most important things I have learnt is that it is important to recognise the way you feel and how this may be implicated in your practice.
Natalie Moore is the student nurse editor for mental health branch nursing.