It was an experience with a patient on the oncology ward she worked in that prompted Sheetal Mary Joseph to become a mental health nurse.
Sheetal describes a time when she worked with a patient who had Leukaemia and was HIV positive.
“They came into the ward very unwell and it didn’t look like they were going to survive,” she explains.
“Oncology can be a hard place to work, you have to accept that a lot of people will not live. I brought in a colouring book and some crayons to the patient and they said they had always enjoyed art but had stopped when they became ill.
“Thankfully, they survived and now does exhibitions of their artwork. They told me that if I hadn’t brought in those crayons and given them an outlet they don’t think they would have made it. I realised that even when patients are physically very unwell being well mentally can help you overcome things and from then, I knew I wanted to work in mental health.”
Sheetal has now been a mental health nurse at Walkergate Park for nearly two years and has a Masters in mental health nursing.
Part of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), Walkergate Park Centre for Neurorehabilitation and Neuropsychiatry is for people with a disability caused by injury or disease affecting the brain, spinal cord or muscles.
One of the most advanced centres of its kind, Walkergate Park aims to maximise people’s potential for independence.
For Sheetal, a typical day starts with handovers, making sure everyone has had their medication and is ready for therapies. Then she attends meetings, helps arrange social work and offers support to relatives who may be visiting.
Sheetal said: “After they have been in an acute ward, it’s often in rehab that patients start to fully understand their situation and how it may impact their life.
“Patients and their families can be under a lot of emotional stress so I spend time with them and talk through how they will be able to adjust to the changes in their lives.”
While she admits things can be crazy at times, Sheetal says there are so many good days working in neuro-rehab. For her, the best part of being a nurse is the job satisfaction and feeling you’re able to make a difference every day.
“I think nursing is the best career you can do,” she said. “I initially regretted my decision to become a nurse because it was so difficult but 10 years on, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Sheetal says the most challenging thing about nursing is that there is no scope for mistakes.
“No matter how tired or stressed you are, there’s no room for error. That level of responsibility can be hard to deal with.”
However, those challenging times are made easier by having a strong support network. Sheetal finds comfort from her team, her family and the group of nurses she trained with as a student who are now working all over the world.
She also finds time to read, something she says allows her to keep calm and destress.