My job

60 seconds with military mental health nurse Diane Palmer

Always aim high, and be an inspirational leader who students and staff can trust and learn from, says 2017 RCNi Nurse Award winner Diane Palmer

Always aim high, and be an inspirational leader who students and staff can trust and learn from, says 2017 RCNi Nurse Award winner Diane Palmer

Diane_Palmer©MH
Diane Palmer wants to set up specialist in-patient services in the private sector
for veterans with complex conditions. Picture: Mark Hakansson

Diane Palmer qualified as a learning disability nurse and social worker in 2002. After working in NHS and social care mental health and learning disability community teams and inpatient services, she managed residential services for people with severely challenging behaviour before moving into military mental health. She spent several years working for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in a mental health and safeguarding role, setting up a specialist community team in Essex for veterans’ mental health. To help ensure veterans receive holistic, joined-up care, she created the veterans’ universal passport, a patient-held multi-agency record of care which won her the Innovations in Your Specialty award at the 2017 RCNi Nurse Awards.

What are your main work responsibilities?

Leading the new veterans’ mental health transition, intervention and liaison services across the Midlands and east of England.

How did you get your job?

After setting up a network between the MoD, NHS and military charities, I was offered the chance to pilot a clinical service for veterans.

Who are your clients/patients?

Military personnel in transition and veterans.

What do you love about your job?

The ‘can do’ attitude of my veterans, who strive to overcome adversity, and the passion and commitment of my clinical team. The innovative projects we embark on and the wonderful colleagues I work in collaboration with from the MoD and charities.

What do you find most difficult?

Lack of funding for the service, unhelpful attitudes in the wider NHS, and service restructuring.

What is your top priority at work?

Clinical and social outcomes for veterans and support for carers, and fostering and maintaining positive partnership working.

How have you developed your skills in this role?

I have worked in military environments for 13 years, gaining knowledge of military culture, language, operational tours, policies and the services available to veterans on discharge. I have developed as a leader and expert in the field of veterans’ mental health, with an in-depth understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder and its impact on veterans and carers.

What has been your most formative career experience?

Watching veterans who have been seriously injured go through physical rehabilitation and mental health support to overcome unimaginable adversity is humbling and inspiring. It makes you appreciate that recovery is possible in even the most severe cases, and helps you realise that what seems like a ‘bad day’ to a civilian differs considerably to that of a soldier.

What will be your next career move?

I hope to set up specialist in-patient services in the private sector for veterans with complex co-morbid mental health, substance misuse, chronic pain and physical health conditions.

What career advice would you give your younger self?

My nursing tutor told me to ‘shoot for the moon – if you don’t make it at least you’ll be up there with the stars’. Aim high, ignore those who are jealous of your achievements, motivate the disaffected, report those who fall short of delivering safe, effective care and be an inspirational leader who students and staff can trust and learn from.


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