How to cope with the culture shock of moving from city to country
Moving from Cardiff to rural West Wales was something of a culture shock for mental health liaison nurse Karen James, who had to overcome personal and professional challenges in her new role.
Moving from Cardiff to rural West Wales was something of a culture shock for mental health liaison nurse Karen James, who had to overcome personal and professional challenges in her new role
In November 2016 I moved from Cardiff to West Wales after securing a job as team leader of a nascent mental health liaison service in Hywel Dda University Health Board.
I had worked in Cardiff for six years and wanted a new challenge. But after accepting the job I started to get cold feet – I was moving house and from a city to a more rural area, changing employer and area of mental health, and my new role was a promotion.
I soon discovered that the change in mental health nursing from community to liaison was the smallest adjustment I had to make.
My father is from West Wales so I am familiar with the area, but Hywel Dda is a geographically large health board covering three counties, and the two main hospitals I cover are 65 miles apart. In Cardiff, a 40-mile round-trip was considered a long way.
I moved from a close and supportive team, where I knew exactly what I was doing, to a new role with very little leadership. It was up to me to create the role and the team, a daunting task.
No one knew I was coming, so there was no desk for me or even a team base.
Nurses in West Wales are exceedingly caring, but the concept of empowering patients has not yet been widely adopted. There also seems to be a more medical model of mental ill health, whereas in Cardiff there was a drive towards a more psycho-social model.
Some of my new colleagues viewed me warily, and with a certain level of defensiveness, but support from my immediate colleagues and a consultant psychiatrist helped make the transition tolerable.
This change was a huge challenge for me, both personally and professionally. As a generally confident and competent person, it felt uncomfortable and unusual to feel so unsettled and inept.
But as time passed, and I got to know my colleagues and gained an understanding of what was expected of me, I realised I could do the job.
Although the health board has some difficulties, I am motivated to try to improve the mental health of a rural community, and hope I have brought a sense of strong team spirit and morale with me from Cardiff to this new and evolving service.
There is still a long way to go in terms of building the team, but I am glad I was brave enough to make the move.
Tips for coping with change:
- Keep a low profile at first so you can understand people’s roles and responsibilities and figure out the social politics.
- Allow six months to decide whether you like a new job or not. It will likely take that long to settle into a new role and area.
- Accept all invitations to meetings and social events so you can make friends and colleagues can get to know you better.
- Respond to all emails promptly, and ensure your contact details and job title are included to remind people who you are.
- Keep in touch with former colleagues, who can be a good source of support.
- Smile even when you don’t feel like smiling.
Karen James is team leader, mental health liaison, at Hywel Dda University Health Board in West Wales