Connecting, learning and reflecting through COVID-19 – Vanessa Best

“I want to help reduce stigma around mental health and help build holistic services to support service users – I’m extremely grateful to the Voluntary Sector and the great work they carry out.”

Covid 19 may have brought barriers but it has also enabled teams of healthcare professionals to grow stronger, and highlighted the invaluable support from the voluntary sector in helping the Trust provide more comprehensive treatments.

In the sixth of our series of Northern Trust Nightingale Blogs, Vanessa Best highlights a sense of strong team working, not just in Mental Health, but across sectors, and the importance of self-care when supporting others who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health.

Vanessa Best, Community Mental Health Nurse
Vanessa Best, Community Mental Health Nurse

When I was given the opportunity to take part in the Nightingale Challenge 2020, I was very privileged to be able to grow as a leader within mental health, something which is very close to my heart. Whilst embarking on my Nightingale journey I also completed the accelerated year in practice nursing programme which allows for newly qualified nurses to be given the support, guidance and confidence to become autonomous practitioners within a community setting. Mental Health is an area in which there is stigma. Many people lack understanding within this area and many people do not feel like they can reach out for support when they need it. There is a lot of work to be done in the area of mental health and I am excited to be a part of that work. I want to help reduce stigma around mental health and help build holistic services to support service users with a range of mental health problems.

Mental Health is an area that hasn’t always been given priority and I have felt immensely proud that this is beginning to change and that there is more awareness on how poor mental wellbeing can impact on people’s day to day lives. Mental Health Services faced some barriers during Covid-19 as we rely on working therapeutically with clients face to face. We came together as a multidisciplinary team and prioritised the needs of the service in order to support service users during this time and help reduce anxiety levels.

Helping people feel less isolated

Covid 19 may have brought barriers but it has also enabled teams of healthcare professionals to grow stronger. It made us realise what resources we required as a service during difficult times and what was working well within the service. I have had the privilege to work within a team where there is a sense of strong team working and everyone supports one another. Due to the volume of support required by the Community Mental Health Services, we have relied on voluntary organisations to help support our service users and their needs. I am extremely grateful to the Voluntary Sector and the great work they carry out. I have been able to network with these organisations to allow for comprehensive treatment for service users and to help support them through their recovery journey. Members of the Multidisciplinary Team have utilised zoom during Covid-19 to make their reviews more person centred and helped service users feel less isolated during lockdown. Our team also created wellness packs which were made personal to each individual. Items within these packs included mindfulness activities, items to plant a flower and of course chocolate! We have also made sure that we are there for our service users whenever they need us and we have worked collaboratively with the out of hours mental health teams to ensure 24/7 support for our service users during this difficult time.

‘Best care outcomes when people work together’

I have observed different styles of leadership during Covid-19. I believe different leadership styles serve a purpose within an organisation and different approaches work well for different care outcomes. I am an advocate for Collective Leadership and was inspired by the Collective Leadership workshop I attended at the beginning of our Nightingale journey. Where collective leadership can be utilised I believe best care outcomes occur when everyone works together and shares their opinions and ideas to allow for people to critically think about the best way forward. Strong leadership within a team is required to drive results within a service to make sure that waiting lists are kept to a minimum. Also to help motivate team members to prevent stress fatigue. Collective Leadership allows for team members to feel like they are a valued member of the team and not just a number. It helps staff to follow the vision and values of the service and to strive for excellent care outcomes and to build strong relationships within the team.

‘Seeing what is important’

Covid-19 has been both professionally and personally difficult for me. It has highlighted to me that self-care is paramount when working with service users who are experiencing difficulty with their mental health. I am a strong believer that you cannot fully support others until you learn to take care of yourself. I have been surprised at how resilient I am and the barriers I have overcome during Covid-19. I have found the support that team members have given to one another to be inspiring. I have found that the support from my team, positive service user feedback and taking time to self-care have all been contributing factors to enable me to maintain an overall healthy wellbeing during. It has enabled me to realise that no matter when you are in the face of adversity that there can always be positive outcomes, even if it is small, and how important it is to support both yourself and others around you. This experience has allowed me to see what is important within the service and what needs to be further developed to support the needs of staff and the service users. Covid 19 has made me realise how resilient we are as humans and with the right resources and support around us that we can achieve anything we put our mind to.

Vanessa Best, Community Mental Health Nurse, Oakview House

Vanessa is one of 27 Northern Trust nurses and midwives participating in the Nightingale Challenge, the global Nursing Now campaign offering a bespoke and innovative 12 month leadership programme during the 2020 International Year of The Nurse and Midwife.

@nhsctrust #NorthernNightingales
@NursingNow2020 #NursingNowNI #NightingaleChallenge
#InternationalYearoftheNurseandMidwife

Other Northern Trust Nightingale Blogs

Gemma McClean, Hospital Diversion Nursing Sister
Judith Shevlin, Community Mental Health Nurse
Denise O’Donnell, Acting Ward Manager, Covid-19 assessment ward

Eleni McCrea, Community Midwife, Whiteabbey Hospital
Stacey Barclay, Midwife, C2, Antrim Area Hospital

Northern Nightingales

2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife logo

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