Day in the life…. of a nurse in Perinatal Mental Health Services

In our latest ‘Day in the Life of Series’ showcasing the diversity of roles within learning disability nursing, Lydia Marsden from Hywel Dda Health Board talks about her role as a nurse in Perinatal Mental Health.

What is your job title and your main role/responsibilities?

I am currently working as a nurse in Perinatal Mental Health Services. Our team supports women throughout the perinatal period who may be experiencing changes in their mental health whilst pregnant or following the birth of baby. My role involves triaging new referrals through completing a holistic assessment which looks at biopsychosocial elements. This is an in depth assessment which allows me to work with the client and the perinatal MDT to put together a suitable plan of care which will best support them. Our team consists of nurses, a specialist midwife, peer mentor support workers, a consultant psychiatrist and pharmacist, OT, psychologist and a CBT practitioner. We all work together collaboratively to provide therapeutic interventions.

How did you get into your current role/line of work?

I trained as a learning disability nurse and qualified in 2019 and went straight into a community nursing role with adults with learning disabilities. I thoroughly enjoyed this work, particularly the opportunities to really get to know the client and their family in order to provide the best person centred care. After two years in this role,  I felt it was time for a new challenge.

In September 2021 I applied for a job as perinatal nurse specialist which was a big risk given that it was such a huge change in direction for me. I felt my nursing style would be suited to working with Mum’s and babies and I was keen to expand my knowledge in this area. I was very anxious about the interview as this was totally out of my comfort zone. To my complete surprise I was offered the job and excitedly accepted straight away. I have almost been in post almost a year now and despite some initial wobbles as with any new job, I do not regret my decision and am always learning.

Can you tell us what a typical day in your role/line of work involves?

The role is very varied and no two days are the same, but generally I spend the beginning of the week running clinics on the midwifery led unit at the local hospital. I see new referrals there and also invite individuals that I see regularly to attend appointments if they feel they need some additional support. Sometimes Mums just really appreciate that safe space to talk openly and honestly about any concerns they have and I feel it is really important they feel heard. The rest of the week I carry out home visits, attend child protection meetings and deliver therapy such as emotional well-being skills. I love delivering interventions with Mum’s and seeing their progress as the weeks go by. Additionally, sometimes Mums I work with can become acutely unwell and may need inpatient admission to a ward or the mother and baby unit and in such circumstances I would liaise with the ward or carry out visits to them to maintain the relationship.

What would you say are the ‘best’ or most rewarding parts of your role?

There are many aspects that I find rewarding, but the best bit for me is seeing relationships develop between Mum and baby when they have gone through a challenging start to motherhood. A recent example was of a mother who, following the birth of her first baby was not leaving the house with him and finding things challenging. Over many months, I visited week in week out to build that therapeutic relationship with her until eventually she agreed to take baby to the park with me. It was beautiful to see her interact with baby as they played on the slide and on the swing and made me feel quite emotional as it had taken a lot to get to this point.

What advice would you give to others who would like to follow a similar pathway? 

I would advise that anyone with an interest in perinatal mental health to get in touch with their local team to see if there are any shadowing opportunities to learn more or request a placement if you are a student nurse. During my training, many people outside of LD nursing told me that I would struggle to get a job and why didn’t I just do mental health training instead. I am so glad that I did not let this discourage me as I feel there are so many valuable transferable skills that you learn as a learning disability nurse that can be used in non-traditional LD roles if you can demonstrate how they can be applied. These include a wide range of communication skills, providing person-centred holistic care, enabling people to feel empowered to be involved in their own healthcare decisions, making reasonable adjustments and working in partnership with women and their families.

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