My job

‘I would add a seventh C: the ability to remain calm’

Advanced nurse practitioner Ann Collins describes the qualities needed in her job

Advanced nurse practitioner Ann Collins describes the qualities needed in her job


What is your job?

I work as an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) for Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust in an older adult community mental health service.

As an ANP, I work alongside medical staff, and with the wider service, to offer additional and enhanced support in the assessment, formulation and review of treatment plans for older adults with mental health needs.

My role also involves monitoring medication and I run a nurse-led clinic for people who need supervision from mental health services because of the type of medication they have been prescribed.

Why did you become a nurse?

Growing up, I always wanted to be a politician. It was only when I was at college that I met someone with mental health issues and I knew I wanted to do something to help them feel better.

When I started training, I never thought about working with older people, but the placements I did in these areas – although difficult and, at times, distressing – made me realise that this is what I want to do and where I could make a difference in my nursing career. I have worked with older people since qualifying at the age of 21.

What has given you most satisfaction?

I qualified as an ANP in 2009, but a service reconfiguration in 2014 meant I was moved into a senior operational manager post.

I did this job for four years, but knew I wanted to have a clinical role rather than a managerial role so I fought to reinstate my ANP job, and I have been back in this clinical post since June 2018. I feel lucky to work in a trust that supports staff development.

Outside work what do you enjoy doing?

I have a big family that keep me busy. Both of my sons play in rock bands and I love watching them play live.

When working with older people or patients with mental health difficulties, what qualities do you think a nurse should possess?

There are qualities that are essential to all nurses and I like the 6Cs framework. I want to be able to show care and compassion in the most difficult of times; remain competent in line with new treatments and ever-changing health and social care landscapes; and retain and demonstrate commitment during these times.

Of the 6Cs, communication and courage are the most important elements; being a nurse takes courage every day. But I would add a seventh C: the ability to remain calm in distressing situations.

What are the challenges you face in your role and how do you overcome them?

The greatest challenge currently is resources, in respect of workforce recruitment and retention, and of the availability of community resources to enable people to live safely at home.

Staff often tell me they are drowning in paperwork and bureaucracy, and that this detracts from their clinical, face-to-face time and affects morale. They also say that morale is affected by constant changes to ways of working. So the biggest challenge is to continue to support and motivate the team, and make them feel valued.

What is likely to affect nurses working with older people with mental health needs and working in the community over the next 12 months?

The NHS landscape is changing and there is an ageing population presenting with multiple co-morbidities. There are fewer inpatient beds available and a focus on care closer to home.

While this is absolutely the right decision for older people with mental health needs, it will have a significant effect on the workforce – not just on the numbers of staff needed to support new models of care, but also on the knowledge and skills required to meet mental and physical health needs. It is going to be a steep learning curve.

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