I've just completed my first couple of months as a qualified psychiatric nurse in full time community work. It's been hard work, challenging, eye-opening and tiring beyond belief. Every day is different, each visit opens a multitude of problems and then there's the never ending paperwork. At times it's frustrating and at times when you reflect on the burden of responsibility heaped on your shoulders, it becomes a little scary.
However, the good times when they happen are so rewarding and so heart-lifting, you thank your lucky stars you signed up to planet NHS. A client's hug, someone holds your hand and through tears says thank you or helping someone make a small change for the better in their life whilst rare, is nonetheless the ultimate humbling job satisfaction. The subject matter within mental health is sometimes surprising, sometimes shocking and very often exposes the frailties and sadness of the people within your care. The people we see have sometimes led extraordinary lives and are touched by all sorts of good and bad.
The other thing that gets you through is to maintain a sense of humour. It's the general rule of thumb that within the mental health arena, it soon develops into a very dark sense of humour. I've already made really good friends from fellow colleagues, no doubt due in part to some sort of shared sorority / fraternity with your fellow health professionals. There's a sense of mutual support and you know how to laugh at the absurdity of the situations you all face. Ultimately, you're in it together for the wellbeing of your clients. Of course there are times when clients tell you (unintentionally) things that are VERY funny. Despite much stifling, your face never cracks and you learn very quickly the ability to keep your face straight. Driving off and about a mile from the clients home, you then let rip with laughter and it happens a lot. I call it a safety valve.
When you get back to the office and back into the bosom of your colleagues, you soon observe how others cope with their work stresses. In our office, we have those who use their iPods to chill out, others disco dance for a few minutes, one girl whistles and sings and my favourite stress-head incident happened this week. One of my colleagues is small, sweet, popular and always cheerful. She walks in that girlie way where her hair swings from side to side. And then she gets loads of referrals just before 5pm. She suddenly turns from Mother Theresa into Chubby Brown. I have NEVER heard such an extensive amount of expletives used in every second word from the mouth of a young lady. Things were thrown, chairs and waste paper bins kicked, and after 138 F words, she sat down and we laughed a lot at such a ridiculous scenario.
And then there's my partner in crime who I get to spend most of the day with during home visits and hospital meetings. Professionally, we are the tops. However, when we're in the car or grabbing a quick lunch on the hoof, we revert to a couple of childish kids who talk incessantly and share a really daft approach to life. It makes all the difference to work with great people and I'm blessed..