My job

‘Placements with older people made me realise what I wanted to do’

Advanced nurse practitioner Ann Collins, who helps older people with mental health needs, talks about her biggest challenge

Advanced nurse practitioner Ann Collins, who helps older people with mental health needs, talks about her biggest challenge

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 by mental health services because of the type of medication they have been prescribed.

Why did you become a nurse?

Growing up, I wanted to be a politician. But when I met someone with mental health issues while at college, 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 was what I wanted 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. Due to service reconfiguration in 2014, I was moved to a senior operational manager post. I did that for four years, but knew I wanted to be in a clinical role rather than be a manager. What has given me most satisfaction is that I fought to reinstate the ANP role and have been back in that clinical post since June 2018.

I also feel lucky to work at a trust that supports staff development.

I was honoured to be made a Queen’s Nurse in 2017 and am proud to be the only mental health nurse in the country to date to have completed the nurse fellowship and be a Queen’s Nurse.

What makes a good nurse leader?

It’s essential to lead by example. You must be able to communicate with your team, to motivate, inspire and empower them, and to do that you need credibility.

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 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. 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 number 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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