The Western Trust's Nightingales Challenge 2020 participant for this week is Niamh Bolster, Dementia and Older People's Community Mental Health Nurse, Oak Villa, Gransha Park.
"My name is Niamh Bolster and I have always had an interest in the caring profession. At the age of 16 I became a cleaner in Altnagelvin Hospital, care assistant at the age of 18 and qualified as a mental health nurse at the age of 21.
Why did you choose this job?
I started my nursing career in a day centre and eventually moved on to my dream job in the community mental health team for older people. I have currently been in post a year. I chose this job due to my personal experience caring for my grandmother who lived with a diagnosis of dementia living at home with a purposeful and meaningful life.
I know it has been a particularly challenging couple of months for all health care workers due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you explain what has changed in your role? What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?
During the covid pandemic I was redeployed from the community to an acute hospital setting. This was a new experience and learning opportunity for me which, in itself, was a challenging learning experience to see how the systems and structures in the ward worked through the current pandemic. I am now back in the community mental health team and the demand for our service has amplified due to increased anxiety regarding Covid-19.
How does your work help in the overall delivery of Health and Social Care services?
The Dementia and Older People’s Community Mental Health Team in the Western Health and Social Care Trust is a secondary specialist service that provides assessment, treatment, and support to people over 65 with a functional mental health illness and/or dementia and those under 65 with an early onset dementia.
In keeping with trust guidance and protocols the community mental health team is now limiting face to face contact with clients and carrying out reviews via telephone calls. In the event of an emergency the Community mental health team will complete face to face assessments. In my opinion, a change that I believe is working well is staff members now wear uniforms, this is new for the community and due to infection control I would believe that this should be implemented in the future.
This is the Year of the Nurse/Midwife and although many plans to celebrate has been significantly curtailed due to COVID – what makes you proud to be playing your role as a nurse/midwife?
I am extremely proud to be a nurse. I genuinely feel like I make a difference to people’s lives. I am also in awe of my colleagues and student nurses who have joined myself on the front line and have taken the pandemic in their stride.
Please also include any particular personal messages of how you, your colleagues have supported each other during this global health crisis.
I will be eternally grateful to my colleagues in the Community Mental Health of Older People’s Team and Ward 2 Waterside hospitals. This is where I was redeployed and who provided myself with emotional and psychological support during the pandemic. Both of these services provide outstanding care to patients and are a credit to the western trust. My friends and family have proved to be a great comfort to me when battling on the front lines to which I will always remember and be extremely thankful.
Looking forward to the next year or so - what would you like to see achieved in Health and Social Care?
Looking forward to the future I am excited to see my clients and help support them. I would like to see the Older People’s Mental Health Services expand, for example, a long stay ward for people who live with dementia who are medically fit for discharge and are awaiting placements in nursing homes. I would also like to see a day centre for older people who live with a functional mental health diagnosis to help them live a meaningful life.
What advice would you give to the public on how they can help the NHS deal with the ongoing pandemic in the months ahead?
The advice I would give the public on how they can help the NHS deal with the ongoing pandemic is to continue to wash their hands and to look after each other. Many people are isolated and frightened due to the covid pandemic. Most importantly, be kind to yourself - these are uncertain times for us all."