Date: 18th May 2016
At the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, Bucks graduate Will Barker recounts his journey of becoming a mental health nurse and the career success he’s enjoyed since graduation.
Will Barker graduated with a first class BSc (Hons) in Mental Health Nursing in September 2013 and joined West London Mental Health Trust as a staff nurse on an acute inpatient admission ward for adults with mental illnesses. He achieved his aim to work with young people last year when he was promoted and seconded to support those with learning disabilities in the Trust’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.
Speaking about his current role, Will said: “I love working with young people because it’s all about making a difference to their lives. No day is the same. I manage my own caseloads, conduct new patient assessments, review treatment plans as well as visiting young people at home and in school. I work with my patients’ parents, carers and teachers and other agencies such as social workers. My role is key to linking all elements of a patient’s life together so they can receive the best possible care and support.”
After leaving school, Will worked as a Health Care Assistant (HCA) in residential homes, on a hospital surgical ward and then in a busy A&E department. It was during his time as an HCA in A&E that Will became interested in mental health and he moved to London from Blackpool to begin working at West London Mental Health Trust in 2007.
“My managers were very supportive and encouraged me to complete a Recovery and Social Exclusion course at Buckinghamshire New University in 2009. I was impressed by the teaching I received on the course and started to think about pursuing my education further with a degree in nursing. I spoke to colleagues and students at work and heard great things about Bucks New University’s nursing degrees and in particular the support networks they put in place to support students during their placements. I successfully applied and started at university in September 2010”, explains Will.
“I loved my time at Bucks New University. The course programme really prepared me for life as a qualified mental health nurse. I started my first job confident that I had the practical skills, backed up by the relevant theory, that I needed to make a real difference to people's lives. I'm so pleased I chose Bucks New University and am proud to still be part of the institution”, Will added.
Will has kept strong links with the University since graduation by becoming a student mentor, returning regularly to share his experiences for the benefit of those training to be mental health nurses.
He explains: "I enjoy working with students and I'm delighted to be a mentor so that I can offer my support to students throughout their degree programme to qualification. I think it's important to give something back to the University as I had a great experience. Today's students are the workforce of tomorrow and helping them to reach their potential will ensure that their patients get the best possible care and outcomes."
Alan Baillie, senior lecturer in mental health at Bucks New University, said: "It was a pleasure having Will as a student on our mental health nursing programme. Given the drive and enthusiasm he showed during this course, his current successes are well merited. Will is testament to the success of our graduates who leave us with the skills and experience they need to secure jobs in their preferred fields. I'm looking forward to collaborating with Will on future projects."
Will has already set new goals for the future: “I want to carry out some applied research about the mental health of looked after children in the care system and the best way to intervene and support those young people. I hope to be promoted to a Nurse Specialist later this year which will mean I will have moved up two bands in three years.”
David Rawcliffe, senior lecturer in mental health at Bucks New University, commented: "Will is an inspiration to me and others; he has the ability to connect with all people and uses this skill to help them develop. He has an extraordinary career ahead of him and I'm confident that he will continue to demonstrate compassion and challenge to his patients, colleagues and the students with whom he works."
Find out more about Will’s journey to becoming a mental health nurse here.