Clinical Lead and Specialist Nurse, Psychosis Treatment Pathway, Community Mental Health Assessment and Recovery Team (CMHART), North Cumbria


Clinical Lead and Specialist Nurse Kirbi Williams swapped a career as a hairdresser to become a mental health nurse. 

Having always wanted to be a nurse, she started working in a local nursing home to gain experience before applying for a Nursing Degree at the University of Manchester. 

Kirbi’s training enabled her to experience all areas of mental health care, from acute and inpatient to community and PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit), even travelling to Australia to experience working in a Community Mental Health Team on the other side of the world. 

Once qualified, Kirbi returned home to Cumbria and secured her first role as a Crisis Practitioner in the ALIS (Access Liaison Integration Service), Home Treatment and Liaison Service. “Working in that team gave me great experience of all mental health problems and the challenges of working in a rural area,” she explained 

After 12 months Kirbi felt ready to focus on a more specific area of practice, starting a secondment at the Early Intervention in Psychosis Service. She added: “I have always been interested in psychosis and the recovery process for people with severe and enduring mental health problems.”

Feeling like she needed a new challenge after maternity leave, Kirbi now leads the Psychosis Treatment Pathway at the Community Mental Health Assessment and Recovery Team (CMHART) in North Cumbria. 

A typical day begins with checking in on the team, ensuring appropriate staffing levels, discussing any key risk information and planning the week. Once a week there’s a supervision group for psychosis practitioners and meetings to discuss any complex cases. Other professionals can also be invited, for example the Police, Adult Social Care, and Drug and Alcohol Services. 

Due to the nature of the role, Kirbi has to be flexible and work changes depending on demand. She offers advice and guidance to practitioners working in a crisis situation in line with Trust policy and procedures and NICE guidelines. 

“As a clinical lead I provide ad-hoc clinical and operational supervision. At the end of the day we have a catch up and debrief which is very useful, especially if we have had a stressful day. It helps us reflect on our practice, allowing us to explore what worked well or what we could have done better. Working in the CMHART makes for a strong team bond.”

Kirbi says working in the Trust provides a number of exciting opportunities, with a wide range of training courses available. She has applied for an MSc in Advanced Practice. 

She added: “I have always felt supported and know I can ask my colleagues for advice. No matter your role in the Trust, everyone works together as a team and we are all provided with the same opportunities.”

The best part of the job for Kirbi is leading a team to provide high quality care and treatment to individuals experiencing mental health difficulties. 

Being able to support family members through difficult time is something Kirbi values. A time that stands out is working with a family member who was feeling deflated and let down by services. “He told me that I’d given a glimmer of hope and confirm truth in the saying that a person’s actions count more than their words. This made me feel like I’d really been able to make a difference to that person’s experience.”

While the job is extremely rewarding, it’s not without its challenges. Kirbi says the biggest challenge is seeing people distressed and losing their hope for recovery but she spreads the message that everyone can recover. 

She added: “Nursing can be daunting but there is always someone there to support you and share ideas with. You are never alone.”