Caine Oates, 28, is a ward manager and Safewards lead for Ullswater ward at The Edenfield Centre in Prestwich, which is GMMH’s forensic mental health inpatient unit. He looks after male patients who are considered a risk to themselves or others.
9 years ago, he began volunteering at a acquired brain injury unit. Realising mental health was the career for him, he decided to go to University and train as a nurse. We spoke to him about a typical day on the wards, where he is responsible for 15 patients and often pulls 11-hour shifts.
“There isn’t really a typical day in the life of a mental health nurse as you work with different people with a whole range of symptoms. I work a mixture of long and short days. The long days consist of 11 hours and 15 minutes and the short days are 7 hours and 30 minutes.
Caine works on Ullswater ward but often does extra shifts across the Edenfield unit. He has been a mental health nurse for 5 years, all within GMMH.
“I start each shift by ensuring I have checked the ward diary and then ensure I allocate all the jobs, including security role and observations. Medication rounds are completed four times throughout the day. Clinical team meetings are carried out every 2 weeks. Throughout the day, I spend time with patients engaging in 1-1 sessions – all service users can expect to have individual sessions with and identified nurse on a daily basis, developing care plans and providing therapeutic activities.
“Service users have access to a wide range of activities to support their recovery and our onsite facilities include a fully equipped gym, a large sports hall, workshop and classroom environments. As service users make progress, we work alongside them to enable them to access community facilities as part of their recovery and in preparation for discharge.
“A key part of my role is to work collaboratively with the patient and the wider Multi-Disciplinary Team to develop robust risk management plans, ensuring we undertake a least restrictive and recovery-based approach to supporting patients to move on in their journey. Another part of my role is to support the team I work with to be able to fully support our patients.”
It’s a job he’s proud to do but one that, inevitably, comes with challenges.
“I work with people who encounter the criminal justice system because of their mental health or who become unwell following a criminal offence. Central to the speciality of forensic mental health is the assessment and management of risk and the most important part of my day is supporting a patient in the point of crisis. I have to use a range of interventions to help patients manage their emotions through de-escalation techniques and the development of coping strategies.”
Like any job, it’s really important to have a strong support network around you from colleagues with a variety of backgrounds.
“I work in a multi-disciplinary team made up of support workers, mental health nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, psychologists, advanced practitioners, consultant psychiatrists, junior doctors and pharmacists. It’s really important to promote positivity and peer support and we do this in team meetings and also through more creative initiatives. For instance, on my ward we’ve started promoting a positive quote of the week and created a staff and patient appreciation board to take a minute to show our appreciation for each other. I’ve found it’s the little things that really help with service user and staff collaboration as well as our wellbeing.”
Caine believes the key to supporting people in their recovery is helping them to cope with their illness and being there when they need you the most.
“The favourite part of my job is supporting patients in their recovery and being able to play a vital role in their journey. In contrast to other mental health hospitals, patients in forensic services can stay up to two to three years, so there’s an opportunity to build meaningful relationships with your patients and engage in meaningful activities.
“For nurses working in forensic mental health it is important to keep an open mind and not be judgmental. We are often supporting people who have committed serious and violent crimes, but an understanding of mental health problems and the complexities of offender behaviours means that you’ve got to have an empathic attitude to working with people.”