What I do in a typical week - trainee mental health worker

How do we compare to other professions, what roles do we take, etc. Includes descriptions of "a week in the life" of relevant posts.
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What I do in a typical week - trainee mental health worker

Post by CleverHans »

The Trainee Mental Health Worker worker position is relatively new and involves an NHS trust funding successful applicants through a Post Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Practice as well as paying them a salary for clinical placements.

I started the program in January 2011 and am due to finish in December. My colleagues and I are only the second cohort of this program in London and so there might be a few changes based on our reccomendations for the intake at the end of the year. I attended uni from January till March in 2011 then started a placement on an Acute Psychiatric Inpatient ward for a few months, I then returned to uni for a month or so before starting my current placement within a Complex Care Team and will return to uni for a period in November. Here is a typical week in my life as a Trainee Mental Health Worker:

Monday - Arrive at uni at 9:30am. There's about 40 students present and the current module we're covering is substance misuse and Dual Diagnosis. We're shown various assessment tools for investigating the extent to clients' substance misuse and, as the classes are always very interactive, we're asked to go through one of these tools with the person next to us and reflect back about how easy / hard it was and any comments we had. I realised that I am perhaps drinking a little too much at the weekend! Oops. Break at 11 and everyone crams into the tiny coffee shop to discuss their weekend and catch up with each other. We're a talkative bunch and, whilst of course subgroups of people who get on particularly well have formed, as a group we all get on well together and enjoy taking over the small pub across from uni on Fridays / early midweek finishes (what was I saying about drinking too much?!). Back into class to continue what we're doing till lunch at 12:30. 1:30-2:30 we're shown a VERY graphic video of substance misuse showing Heroin injection and infected tracklines. 2:30-3:30 we have a service user / lecturer come in to talk to us about Social Inclusion and the ways in which we can help our clients access local community services. At 3:30 we have a summing up of the day and the chance to ask any questions. 4pm - early finish! I'm coming to the end of the program now so when I get home I spend most of the evening looking for jobs.

Tuesday - Arrive at uni at 9:30am. Today we're looking at case studies to assess how skilled we are at spotting possible signs of substance misuse. One case study is of a 25 year old Glaswegian woman named Siobhan who frequently smokes crack cocaine and prostitutes herself to fund this. At this point I should mention my name's Siobhan, i'm 24 and from Glasgow and i'm starting to get paranoid about how lecturers come up with such case studies! However, it was helpful nonetheless to put into practice what we had learned in theory the day before. We work on these in groups and then feedback as a group to the whole class. Reporting back like this has greatly increased my confidence in public speaking. We again finish at 4pm and tonight i'm doing some reading for my essay on Social Inclusion as well as some job hunting.

Wednesday - I'm back at work. Having been back at uni for 2 weeks I have 30+ emails to answer (however most are from the IT department discussing power outages and HR emailing me about various beaurocratic forms I have to fill in). I answer these and then move on to catching up with how one of my clients is doing. We use RiO in this trust which a computerised patient's record system I access with a 'SmartCard' (though sometimes it's not so smart). I see that whilst i've been away the client has been trying to contact her consultant quite a lot. I am currently working through a program of Behavioural Activation with this client who is experiencing severe anxiety and has been unable to leave the house. I phone her and she fills me in on how she's been and as she gets upset and panicked we work through some relaxation and breathing techniques on the phone and arrange for me to visit her on Friday. Wednesdays is Team Meeting day. I work with Care Coordinators, most of whom are Social Workers or Community Psychiatric Nurses as well as Psychologists, Psychotherapists and Psychiatrists and various people bring forward specific cases to discuss as a team and jointly suggest solutions. This also provides me with excellent experience of how the referral process works between my team (Complex Care) and IAPT, inpatient settings and signposting services such as START and GP surgeries. After lunch I help the Associate Mental Health Workers prepare pamphlets and information booklets for the various groups the service is developing to introduce new clients to the service and to prepare them for Psychotherapy.

Thursday - At 10am I have a Supervision session. My superviser is a Counselling Psychologist and we discuss my client with the severe anxiety. I confide in her that I consider the client's mother to be interfering with and effectively sabotaging the behavioural activation program and she provides me with a wealth of advice and helpful suggestions on this. We discuss my professional development. She is aware that I hope to gain a place on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and she agrees to review my application and we discuss me getting involved in some research or auditing in the department to broaden my experience. After this I source some activity sheets and monitoring forms to make sure I have them to give to my client tomorrow. My afternoon is spent completing my "Workbook" which is a series of questions designed to assess my grasp of the learning outcomes of the course which has to be signed off by my superviser in order to pass a specific module of the PGDip. After work I head to university to meet with fellow students and past students of the program. Together we have set up an anti-stigma campaign and we discuss what needs to be done to prepare for our upcoming fundraiser / awareness raising event.

Friday - This morning I had a brief meeting with my manager to discuss whether I felt I had enough clinical work to be getting on with. With only 1 client I told her I don't think so. We discussed bringing this up in a team meeting after I have compiled a document detailing my abilities that the care coordinators can refer to. I then contacted my client to make sure she's still available to meet me today which she said she was and so that's my afternoon taken up. I also arranged with 1 of the care coordinators to attend a review with her to a local prison as she felt this would be good Forensic experience for me.

Compared to Research Assistant posts and Assistant Psychologist posts the Trainee Mental Health Worker position is perhaps an unorthidox route into Clinical training but I found that they're flexible and novel enough to get the experience you want out of them. During my time as a Trainee Mental Health Worker I have observed and been involved in assessments, 1:1 and group Psychological interventions, service evaluation and worked with an array of clients both in Acute / crisis and community settings and now have experience of a breadth of commonly (and also not so commonly) presenting problems to NHS settings. I already know of 3 people who got onto the Doctorate having done this course. Furthermore, i've applied for around 10 jobs since the beginning of September and have already been offered an interview as a Research Assistant which I hold this position responsible for. In this job climate I think it's important to find alternative routes to where you want to go and in my opinion this certainly was a worthy one.
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