I am so grateful to Nadine for taking a risk to do things differently

Jo Mullen says her community mental heath nurse Nadine MacArthur has made her feel empowered and independent

Nadine MacArthur and Jo Mullen met during Jo's first admission to the psychiatric ward at Dr Gray's Hospital, Elgin, in 2003. Nadine was Jo’s named nurse at the time, and has been her community mental health nurse for the past three years. In that time, they have developed an innovative and collaborative approach to the therapeutic relationship between mental health nurse and patient.

‘Although I had to give up paid employment due to my mental health problems, it has always been important for me to be engaged in purposeful activity,’ says Jo. ‘Nadine appreciates this, and encourages me to draw upon my skills and experience, as well as my knowledge of borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is my primary diagnosis.

‘Two and a half years ago, Nadine brought it to my attention that there were few resources for BPD locally, especially for those newly diagnosed. 

‘So with Nadine's support, I wrote a booklet about my experience of living with BPD and some of the ways I'd learned to cope. With her help, more than 650 booklets have been distributed, including 150 locally, both in the community and in the psychiatric ward.’

Self-awareness programme 

The booklet was just the beginning and Jo went on to develop a programme for self-awareness – called Wot R U Like? – for mental health professionals to deliver to people with a BPD diagnosis or similar challenges. 

‘Nadine and I delivered a training session about the programme to our community mental health team, who went on to use the pack,’ says Jo.

In April 2016, Nadine and Jo travelled from Elgin to Dundee to give a presentation on Wot R U Like? at the Scottish Mental Health Nursing Research Conference and have since given four training sessions together in Dundee, Aberdeen and Fife as part of a research project led by Geoff Dickens and Emma Lamont of Abertay University. The study seeks to find out whether knowledge and training in aspects of BPD can promote positive attitudes among mental health nursing staff towards people with a BPD diagnosis.


‘These training sessions have involved several hundred miles of travel and Nadine generously undertakes the long drives because I am too anxious to use public transport,’ says Jo. ‘Two of these sessions involved overnight stays in hotels, with the result that Nadine was away from her family. 

‘During these times, she has used her knowledge of me to avoid situations that cause me to feel anxious, and has helpfully explained to other professionals that my anxiety can cause me to be a bit grumpy.

‘Nadine's willingness to work in a collaborative, supportive way, is central to me leading a purposeful life and experiencing the joy of achievement, despite the difficulties I face daily. 


‘The way we work together is a challenge to the traditional relationship between patient and professional. In the past, I have tended to place people who help me on a pedestal. This way, I feel much more empowered and independent than ever before.

‘I am so grateful to Nadine for taking a risk to do things differently. We make a great team.'

Nadine, who works for NHS Grampian, has been a mental health nurse for 18 years. She says she was touched when she read Jo’s nomination. ‘It was lovely of her to take the time to write about it and nominate me for the award. She did not tell me she was going to do it so it was quite a surprise. 

‘I would say I am just doing my job. I have done a lot of work with Jo and managed to help her but I have a positive team that has supported me in doing that.’


The RCNi Patient’s Choice Award is sponsored by Yakult and supported by Smooth Radio