Justine Brennan-Tovey is a clinical lead for Older Persons services, within the Universal Crisis Team, South of Tyne.
Having started the role in October, Justine is responsible for leading the clinical aspects of the work to support older person’s services in the team.
“We are dealing with some of the most unwell people in the community,” she explains. “We work with those who are acutely unwell with their mental health.”
The crisis team provides home-based assessment and aims to treat people in their homes rather than admitting them to hospital. The Universal Crisis Team is made up of nurses, doctors and occupational therapists who specialise in adults, older persons, and children. The three specialities work together and in conjunction with a range of third sector organisations to make sure patients get support from those with the right knowledge and skills as soon as possible.
Justine’s job is to work with service users to support them through a period of mental health crisis and find the most appropriate route for their care, whether that’s through their GP, a third sector organisation or the community treatment team.
Justine found she wanted to work in healthcare after having a family member experience issues with their mental health. “I knew it was something I wanted to do and that I would find it fulfilling.”
She ended up studying sooner than she expected. She said: “I was doing my A Levels which weren’t going particularly well. I applied for nursing thinking I would start the following year but the university called and asked if I wanted to start the next month, so I did!”
Justine started an advanced diploma in nursing at Northumbria University aged 17. Once qualified, she got a job in a care home.
She then started doing bank shifts with Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) before securing a permanent post in a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit within the Trust.
Justine worked in the psychiatric liaison team based at Sunderland Royal Hospital and while working there, was offered the opportunity to work into the crisis team and to support the set-up of the older person’s service, part of the Universal Crisis Team.
For Justine, the best part of the job is working with a variety of people and feeling you’re able to make a difference to their lives.
“There are challenges,” she admits. “You can have some challenging conversations and hear some distressing things, but I feel like you’re making a difference every day.
“It can be a small thing like bringing someone a cream cake on your visit or something bigger like helping someone’s carer understand what their loved one is going through.”
For those interested in a career in mental health nursing, Justine recommends getting as much experience as possible.
“I would say, talk to people in that role and get a feel for what it’s like,” she said. “I’m more than happy to speak to anyone who might be considering it.
“Don’t be afraid to move away from what you’re doing. I know a lot of people who came into nursing later in life and say it’s the best thing they’ve ever done.”
Justine has also been given the opportunity to progress in her career with the Trust. She is currently studying for a Masters Degree in Nursing with the University of Sunderland.
“I work with some fantastic people and the support I’ve received has been second to none. Coming into CNTW, you know you’re coming into a supportive workplace.”