Clinician profile - Sarah's Story

Sarah* is one of our dedicated support clinicians at NM Support. She has a background in mental health nursing and is passionate about improving the health of nurses and midwives. Sarah sat down with us to share a little bit about her life, professional experience and self-care tips.
How long have you been a nurse or midwife?

I’ve been a nurse for five years. In 2015 I completed my post graduate diploma in psychiatric nursing.

Why did you become a nurse?

Growing up, I wanted to be a nutritionist. It was actually my grandmother who encouraged me to be a nurse. I chose psychiatric nursing because I felt it was the right fit for me and I enjoyed making people laugh – when I was a student nurse I often got in trouble for spending too much time talking to the patients!

When I was on general placement as a student, there was one client in particular who made me realise psychiatric nursing was for me. He was a homeless man with chronic schizophrenia. After a few days of caring for this client at random allocation, the nurses on the ward started allocating him to me because they saw I enjoyed his company and aiding his recovery, and that he did too. I’ll never forget laughing with him about the quirky stories he told. Unfortunately he passed away just before my placement ended; sometimes I wish I could have told him how he shaped my career path.  

Can you tell us about your nursing journey so far?

I’ve worked in a range of different areas including acute mental health, community mental health, ECT, neuropsychiatry and eating disorders. I love working with the human brain and behaviours. Psychology is incredibly interesting and something I feel I am forever learning about. Mental health nursing can be challenging for various reasons, but making a sad patient smile or making a scared patient feel safe is a truly rewarding part of the job.  

Why do you work at NM Support?

I work at NM Support because I have a passion for the profession and the people in it. I see a great importance in keeping my colleagues healthy so they can continue to do the job they have trained so hard for and dedicated themselves to. Working in healthcare is a noble task to undertake but I don’t think it should take over your life and make you forget who you are, what you do for fun and most importantly how to live, laugh and love.

I enjoy reminding people of the good things and encouraging them to care for themselves the way they would care for a patient or client. I love making people realise they are worthy of that. I am very passionate about work-life balance and self-care/self-love and think it is an imperative element in how we can continue to improve our profession. 

What types of calls do you receive?

We receive a range of calls but I particularly enjoy receiving calls from students and graduates. Students and graduates seem to be quite a vulnerable group within the nursing and midwifery population. I feel great satisfaction when I am able to motivate this group to keep going and learn the principles of self-care. I believe showing care for ourselves and our colleagues promotes our longevity in the industry.

We also receive calls about further education and career change or progression. These calls are fantastic and I enjoy brainstorming all the possibilities nursing and midwifery have to offer.  

What are your thoughts on self-care – do you think it is important? Why?

I truly believe that without self-care there is no healthcare. We can all identify areas within our profession that may need improvement; rates of burnout and compassion fatigue appear to be increasing. I think it’s beneficial for nurses and midwives to be taught principles of self-care; it’s never too late to get started and I hope we can slowly embed this in the industry by teaching people during their studies. Widespread change is possible and I strongly believe organisations should promote these principles so that we can have happy, healthy staff who love their job and work efficiently.  

What self-care strategies do you use? How do you find that these help you in your everyday life?

It’s important to find self-care strategies that energise, de-stress, and fit in with your daily schedule. Sometimes it can take time to test a few out and find the ones that suit you. I have five main self-care strategies that work really well for me. They are:

  1. “Meal prep” – I enjoy cooking and I find it relaxing, but I hate dishes! So I cook all my meals and prepare all my food for the week ahead on one particular day. If the food won’t keep for a whole week, I’ll freeze it. It maximises my time and reduce my dishes.
  2. Yoga – There a lots of different varieties of yoga you could try. From hot yoga, to sleep yoga, to more strength-focussed yoga. My personal favourite is Bikram, which is performed in a hot room. It helps me get rid of any negative energies I may have absorbed at work and it  makes me feel cleansed.
  3. Gym – Spending some time at the gym helps me release pent-up energy and also allows me to enjoy a few treats during the week as part of my meal plan.
  4. Meditating – If I am verbally threatened or abused by a client, I will try to take a moment to meditate afterwards. Yes, sometimes in the bathroom, as it’s a quiet space where I can have a moment to myself. Taking a moment to meditate helps reduce anxiety caused by these types of incidents and also helps me separate the incident from the part of me I take home.
  5. Regular annual leave – I try to have a holiday once every quarter. I think it’s important to regularly get away from the workplace. I don’t always go away during my leave – sometimes it’s nice to stay local and have a staycation. 

*name changed for privacy.