My exceptional nurse taught me how to save myself

Alexandra (surname removed by request) has nominated ‘amazing’ Karen Coutts for helping her move forward despite her challenging mental health diagnosis

‘Karen Coutts was the first person to get it, to truly understand. She was the first person to think outside the box, and work with me as an individual rather than the label I had been given. 

‘When I first met Karen, I was at the lowest point of my life. I was closed to the idea of being nursed or cared about, and I was closed to the idea of help and recovery, I was hopeless.’

Alexandra paints a bleak picture of living with her diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder – until she met deputy ward sister Karen Coutts as an inpatient unit in April 2016. 

Genuinely caring

‘Karen cared about me,’ says Alexandra. ‘She spoke to me because she wanted to speak to me, not just because it was her job.’

Alexandra had been diagnosed six years previously but had made little progress.  

‘Karen was the first person to engage and interact with the other alters and through trial and error and positive risks, she made more progress with me in five months, than there had been in the previous six years.’

Crucially, she helped the other nurses and support workers to understand Alexandra’s diagnosis, and as a team, they supported her and gave her the tools she needed to help herself. 

‘Karen transferred to Ormskirk Hospital but she returned on a bank shift to discharge me from that admission and complete that part of the journey with me,’ says Alexandra.

Since then Alexandra has been readmitted a few times, but for weeks rather than months.

‘I truly believe that without Karen's input I would be in a secure forensic unit, or even worse, I would no longer be alive,’ she says. ‘On a couple of these readmissions I have found myself in the hospital where Karen now works and again she leads the team in working with me and helps them to understand. She gets me back on my feet. 

‘All of the patients respect her and she always goes above and beyond to help in any way she can. She seems to find time to do everything, all the admin and still seem to be always out on the ward speaking to people. She is superhuman.’

An exceptional nurse

Alexandra appreciates that Karen communicates with her family and community team and keeps them involved in her recovery. She adds: ‘They think she is a fantastic nurse and always look to her for guidance and advice for management in the community. 

‘Karen's wise words always ring in my ears. I will forever be grateful for the amount of work and time she put in with me. I feel she deserves the highest recognition for her contribution as an exceptional nurse and an amazing person.’

Karen, who works for Lancashire Care NHS Trust, qualified as a mental health nurse almost four years age. She is shocked to be a finalist. ‘I just come into work and do what I have to do for my patients,’ she says.

‘I am gobsmacked that Alexandra went to the trouble of nominating me. When I received the email telling me I was a finalist I thought someone was kidding me.

‘Patients have told me before I have made a difference but seeing it written down by Alexandra makes it hit home.’


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