You may have seen this hot tomale around this neck of the woods before so I’m sure she doesn’t need much of an introduction.
Top pal and two-time housemate since the beginning of uni, Sarah has worked as a learning disabilities nurse for 8 years and is currently a ward manager in a mental health hospital. Having worked with individuals with learning disabilities myself for a short while, it’s undeniable that it’s a profession that really takes the patience of a saint.
I hope you enjoy learning a little more about the nursing profession from an award-winning nurse leader! 😉
Could you tell me about your job and what it involves?
My current role is a ward manager in a mental health hospital. My ward is a locked rehab for women with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour. Most of the patients are sectioned under the mental health act, but a couple are on their way to recovery and moving into the community, so they are informal patients meaning they can leave when they want to. I’m responsible for the management of the ward, this includes staffing and rota management, ensuring compliance with documentation and everything that goes along with the ward.
What made you decide to pursue this career path?
I’ve always loved working with people with learning disabilities, but never thought I would end up as a ward manager! It took a long time for me to find my “niche”. There are so many different avenues you can pursue in nursing but when I joined my current company I just seemed to fit right in! I started with Priory as a staff nurse, then progressed to deputy ward manager, then applied to be ward manager.
People go into nursing to help people, that’s mainly why I started. As a manager I’m not directly doing all the clinical things that I have done throughout my career, but I have a lot to do with getting people out of hospital and into the community and supporting my team on the ward.
What struggles have you encountered in your profession?
My lowest points would be working in series of nursing roles that I really hated! This included assessments for the DWP, elderly care nursing homes and community nursing. I just didn’t fit in or get anything from the roles, that’s when I thought nursing wasn’t for me! Another low point was not passing probation and leaving a job for an admin error, it was so humiliating, and I took it very personally. Failure is not something I do well, but I learnt from it, I hope.
I really think you did learn from it – like a phoenix rising from the ashes! Just look at how successful you are now. Could you tell me about some of your favourite memories and highlights?
My highlights would be last year I won an award for “nurse leader of the year” that was a big achievement for me! Also getting promoted and being successful so far as a ward manager. I think the 3rd highlight would be actually qualifying as a nurse, back in 2012! I’m surprised I’ve lasted as long as I have, there were many times I thought about sacking it in, but I’m glad I didn’t!
What advice would you give to someone looking into working in this area?
My advice to anyone aspiring to be a nurse or a ward manager would be…be resilient! Resilience is something you really need in nursing and care, things go wrong, there are personality clashes and criticisms, as well as taking on other people’s emotions. Even if you don’t start off resilient you will grow it! Practically taking opportunities is a good idea, look for courses and studying you can do for free as you never know when some knowledge you’ve acquired will come in handy!
Are there any specific personality traits that you think would be well suited to the profession?
The most important personality trait that I have is patience. I think it is lessening as I get older, but patience is essential in my role. I’ve worked with many people who can take a very long time to communicate, as this is one of the challenges for someone with a learning disability. Or you might have to hear the same sentence told to you about 100 times a day as is the case for someone with memory difficulties or an acquired brain injury. Patience is crucial. Obviously, you have to be kind also to be a nurse, no one wants a mean nurse taking care of them! And also being a good listener. Sometimes I’m terrible at this, but hopefully I’m good when it counts!
Have you got any funny stories to share from your working life?
There are always highs and lows in my job, you see people in pain, people confused and disoriented, people in crisis and people at the end of their life. But when you work in a close team you have a laugh as well. When i was new on a ward once (not in my current job) I didn’t know that one of the patients was not allowed in the kitchen. She went in and made a nice drink of marmite, peanut butter and coffee and drank it all up. Funny in hindsight!
How do you like to unwind after a long day at work?
My main way of unwinding at the moment is computer games- Zelda, Candy Crush and a bit of Mario Kart! I also like having baths, and lots of cuddles.
Do you see yourself in this profession for the foreseeable future?
For me the future is still in Nursing. I’m pretty invested in my job and I feel very valued in the company that I work for. I like my team and I want the best for my patients, so that motivates me to do my best. I think in any other kind of job that wasn’t about caring for people, I might struggle with motivation.
If you could try another career for a week, what would you like to try?
If I could try something different for a week…I would like to do something completely different, but I have no idea what that would be! Something low stress and creative would be ideal.
A big thank you to Sarah for sharing her brilliant insights into the world of nursing. I’m always in awe of her level of patience and hard work; you are an absolute gem, Sarah, keep being amazing!