Mental health nurse & patient tweet chat: what do newbies need to know?

11 Feb

Psychiatric Nurse - Garrison - Book cover

Update small..

The tweet chat took place on Thursday 20th February 2014 with We Nurses – catch up with the discussion by taking a look at the full transcript!


I’m planning my first one hour tweet chat in a couple of weeks (date to be announced). (Check out my quick guide to tweet chats for more on what they are – this and other helpful links are below). Here’s what I have in mind, for an inpatient mental health nursing tweet chat:

  • Patients: Are you a patient who’s experienced inpatient mental health nursing? What would you like the newbies to know – the student nurses about to start a placement or the newly qualified mental health nurse. What things that nurses did – good or bad – made a difference to your experience on ward?
  • Students: Are you about to qualify as a mental health nurse? Are you a student nurse about to start your mental health placement?  What is the balance between fear and excitement? What would you like to know? What practical concerns do you have? What do you want help with to make your first days on ward a success?
  • Nurses: Are you a qualified mental health nurse? Are you a student nurse who has completed your mental health placement? What tips would you like to pass on to newbies about to qualify or about to undertake a placement? What are those little insider tips that really helped? What would you have liked to know when you were a newbie?

I’d like to be able to share some really useful tips to help new mental health nurses and nursing students make their best start on ward, because that benefits both staff and patients. Here are some example questions I’ve thought up that students might want to know the answer to:

“How can I prepare for my placement so I get the most from it?”

How can I put the knowledge I’ve learned at university into practice on the ward?”

“How can I settle in as quickly as possible so I fit in with my nursing team and ward life?”

“How can I switch off after a shift?”

“What should I do if I see another nurse doing treating a patient unkindly?”

Here are some examples of useful tips to pass on:

The Bic 4-colour pens are really useful for filling in your paperwork.”

“Remember to always respect the patient as an individual and see past the diagnosis.”

“Don’t make assumptions or have preconceived ideas based on what you’ve been told before. Remain open-minded and make your own judgments based on your own personal experiences.”

As I’m not a nurse and haven’t run a tweet chat before, I’ve invited @MHnursechat – associated with the awesome We Nurses website and tweet chats – to run a joint tweet chat with me. We’re going to be discussing how this will work and, hopefully, setting a date. Very exciting!

In preparation for the tweet chat, I’m asking you to please share your tips and questions. That will help set the agenda to be followed and the areas we’ll focus on in the tweet chat – so it covers the most burning questions and drills down to the most useful tips. It may be that there will be more than one tweet chat on this topic – perhaps one covering what nurses need to know in their first few days, and another for when they’ve been there a few weeks. We’ll see. A tweet chat needs to have enough of a focus to engage people without overwhelming them, but at the same time enough breadth so it doesn’t peter out prematurely! If there are other topics you think would be good for tweet chats then please let me know!

You can comment below or tweet me (please don’t try to pack more than one query or tip into each tweet ) @Sectioned_ (please remember the underscore). It’s helpful if you could say whether you’re offering your comment from your experience as a patient, nurse or student. Look forward to hearing from you!

Why a tweet chat? I’m often interested in discovering what other tweeps think about topics and then sharing those insights. So, quite a few times, I’ve tweeted questions then collated the responses into a Storify story which I’ve sometimes turned into a blog. (I was rather excited to learn that this is called “crowd sourcing” and “curating the chat”.) This time I thought I’d try making it a bit more organised & involve more people: I’m beginning to learn just how valuable Twitter is as a way to bring together groups of people to share views openly in a way they might not otherwise do. (I’m told this is called “disruption” – disrupting the natural order of things and mixing it up, like mental health peeps and staff learning together.) (Thanks to Victoria Betton for all the cool jargon!)

Why this topic? After all, I’m not a nurse. As a child, however, I remember being taken to one of the big long-stay psychiatric hospitals of the sort portrayed in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I remember the high ceilings, big windows and long corridors. Happily I wasn’t being booked in myself. I was visiting family friends who worked there as psychiatric nurses. Members of my family also worked on psychiatric wards and in nursing.  When I was sectioned a couple of years ago, my inpatient experience fell far short of the care I would hope all psychiatric nurses aim to deliver. You could say that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. But, as I’ve been around nurses my whole life, I know that the image and practice of mental health nursing has come a very long way since the fearsomely controlling figure portrayed by Nurse Ratched. For me, nurses are (or should be) an essential part of the team that helps get me well. So I’m all for sharing tips and best practice to help nurses be their best. I’m hoping this tweet chat will be one small way to do that.



web links 5

  • Guide to tweet chats – all you need to know to join in your first tweet chat or get more from them
  • Mental health jargon buster and acronym buster – please send yours in! We’ll try to avoid jargon during the tweet chat itself, but if the jargon’s in the jargon buster, I can just tweet a copy of that by way of explanation

For the nurses and student nurses amongst you, here’s some nurse-focussed content:



9 Responses to “Mental health nurse & patient tweet chat: what do newbies need to know?”

  1. goldenpsych 11 February 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    From a patients point of view…to see past the diagnosis and others judgements of the person and make up your own mind. Keep an open mind and spend time getting to know the patient. Don’t let your first impressions of the patient form a judgement of that person. They could be having a really bad day and they are not usually like that. They may have problems with trust and with new people but once they know they can trust you they can be a totally different person.

  2. goldenpsych 11 February 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    From a workers point of view… I worked in a very demanding medium secure female forensic PD unit. Some shifts we could spend more time on the floor restraining someone who was intent on harming themselves or others than we would up and about. We would take abuse and always have to be on high alert. What you think are normal every day objects, such as a pen can become lethal weapons or lethal tools of self harm. It’s hard work, but rewarding. What helped most was debriefing over a few glasses of wine, or vodka with someone who knew exactly what you were up against. Your co-workers can become your best friends and you will really get to know them well. You will find your head in places you would never dream of putting it near during restraints so you become close to the people you work with very quickly. It’s important that you work as a team and keep that bond.

  3. Megandoodah 11 February 2013 at 11:02 pm #

    Be kind. Listen. Don’t be judgmental.

    Don’t stay in the nurses’ office. Sit with patients in the lounge, the garden. Interact. Play snooker/draughts. Eat with patients: share the same meals and the moans about the quality!!

    Use humour, psychiatric units are depressing places!

    Listen to patient concerns about side effects. Don’t say ” well you’re not fat yet!” if a patient is worried about med-related weight gain.

    Explain things, even if you have to act quickly ” we are restraining you because…” we are injecting you with this strong sedative because…” And explain things again afterwards. It helps with the anger, med concordance issues and the length of inpatient stay if you give meaning to a disempowering experience.

    • Future MH Nurse 15 February 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      From the view of patient and future student nurse:

      I am a mental health patient (previous long-term blogger) and I am about to commence on my mental health nurse training (debating if I should return to blogging as a student nurse!) I have been an inpatient, and spoken openly with student nurses who seem very much engaged in there placements and training and certainly keen to learn from patients, those student nurses I find ‘interesting’ and willing to learn. I have however seen student nurses who look scared to approach patients and instead prefer to sit around barely making eye contact with patients! It was a student nurse who persuaded me to follow my dream of going into mental health nursing some 4 years ago and finally, I am making that dream a reality, although I admit as the days go by I am beginning to get a tad scared of jumping from full time mental patient (still under the CMHT) / volunteer to mental health nursing student as I prepare what needs to be done. This week I met with the university disability team to put a support plan in place in case my mental health deteriorates! Having been a patient involved in mental health services for over 8 years, I have experienced 4 stays as an inpatient, long-term therapy, varying drugs to control my problems, complaints with the hospital trust, endless crisis team experiences, one fantastic CPN, several psychiatrists, two diagnosis and I still have a CPA.

      I am fully prepared what to expect from being a student and placements (although have concerns about getting placements locally!) I know I will engage with patients because I feel I can relate to their experiences, I am wary however of divulging my own experiences although if my placements are local it’s likely I will know patients from both being a patient myself and my voluntary work.

      The most important thing to remember is, you are dealing with a real person not a diagnosis or label, not everyone is like what is written in a textbook!

  4. Naomi Gilbert 25 February 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Really looking forward to this twitter chat. I feel I experienced a lot of compassion from MH nursing staff as an inpatient in a general psychiatric ward – but it was interesting that it seemed to be because I had a tiny baby each time, and we had to be creative about making sure my kids could visit in some way (I had a manic postpartum psychosis with #1 and severe PND with #2)

    It felt sad to me that compassion seemed lost for other patients on the ward when there weren’t these obvious extra ‘life factors’ to take into account. Staff spent a lot of their time behind glass doors in the office catching up with each other and having to do mountains of paperwork. But from a patient’s view it could make you feel so lonely and as if you were a total pain if you needed to ask something.

    Community nursing staff were very mixed when I was discharged in their ability to sympathise with me as a mother who had completely lost her confidence and believed at many times that my kids would be better off without me. I honestly felt some of the Crisis Team nurses just thought I was being ‘lazy’ wanting to go back in to hospital and I needed to ‘man up’ as a mother…

    Thank you to the nurses & students who’ve already raised important points on the comments section here. It seems the key is somehow preserving our belief in each others’ humanity – patient, nurse or student. As patients we need to develop that trust that you do care for us and are working to act in our best interests; and as professionals we need you to see beyond our symptoms to the real person.

  5. Susan hooper 19 February 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    Gain trust in your patient or they won’t talk ! Don’t judge ! Don’t come across cocky ! As that will instantly get peoples backs up ! Allow patients to talk when they choose ! Give then space ! That’s very important ! Listen to them and not just do ur job ! Compassion is a key aspect ! #talking from experience


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