Mental Health Nurse, Gibside Ward, St. Nicholas

Phillippa MilburnPhillipa Milburn qualified as a Mental Health nurse in November following an Open University course.

Having been a support worker for 16 years, she felt she was ready for a new challenge.

Now, Phillipa works on Gibside Ward, part of the Regional Affective Disorders Inpatients Service (RADS). RADS is one of a limited number of specialist affective disorder centres in the UK providing care for patients with difficult to treat mood disorders.

A typical day for Phillipa begins with a handover, giving out medication and 1-to-1 nursing sessions to offer emotional support to patients on the ward. She attends meetings on behalf of patients and encourages them to take part in activities that make up their occupational therapy, for example cooking.

“Part of my job is to go out with the patients, doing graded exposure, to help them feel more confident and independent,” Phillipa explained.

“We work with adults who have had depression or bipolar disorder for a long time which is often difficult to treat. It’s not just about nursing, we help with every aspect of their lives from dealing with finances to housing, many social aspects which can impact on their mental health and ability to cope.”

While the job can be difficult at times, Phillipa says it is extremely rewarding. “The best feeling is a patient thanking you when they get discharged, it makes it all worthwhile,” she says.

For her, the most challenging part is seeing how difficult things can be for people and how lonely they are.

She said: “Often people with depression can feel very lonely and helpless. They can feel like they’re never going to recover and that’s hard to see.”

Phillipa joined Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) aged 18 working at Ferndene, an inpatient unit which provides assessment and treatment for children and young people with complex health, behavioural and emotional needs.

Her advice to anyone considering a career in nursing would be to become a support worker first, it provides invaluable experience and grounding for all aspects of nursing.

Doing a course with the Open University allowed Phillipa to do a variety of placements across the Trust. She added: “I was able to lean on the job and then bring back those skills to my support worker role.

“There were times when I found it hard to juggle both work and university but I received a lot of support and could be really honest with people and let them know if I was struggling.”

Phillipa says she has never looked back and is really enjoying her role as a staff nurse.

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is a provider of mental health and learning disability services in the North East and north Cumbria.