Story Series: Debi Paynter | Our blog

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The Maudsley Blog

Story Series: Debi Paynter

2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, a time to reflect on the skills, commitment and expert clinical care that nurses and midwives bring, and the impact they make on the lives of so many. Here Debi Paynter about her nursing career.

"I hadn’t planned on being a mental health nurse. I didn’t have any plans at all really when I left school at age 15 after a disrupted education.  I left home and moved to London at age 16, with my one O level, where I sort of fell into care work. I worked for many years in a variety of fairly low paid jobs in a range of settings with many different people, providing care and support. I often worked two jobs and would also do voluntary work. Life had its challenges, as life does, but I always liked the work that I did and I just got on with things.

"Fifteen years later, I found myself working in the NHS, in a mental health service for deaf children and young people. I loved this job, but without relevant training and qualifications, I found that I was limited in the clinical work that I was allowed to do which was very frustrating. I felt capable of doing more and wanted to do more. Fortunately for me, I was working with a consultant who saw some potential in me and encouraged me to apply for training. After looking into the options available, I decided to apply for nurse training. The course looked interesting and it felt like a good fit for me.                         

"I was lucky enough to be seconded to do my training by the Trust that I worked for at the time and I felt so proud to be going to university – this wasn’t something that I had ever thought I would get to do.

"I had been out of education for a very long time, so writing assignments, doing research, even reading books and papers was really challenging. Then, as I was about to start my first placement, a close friend of mine died. My tutor and placement mentor were really supportive and understanding which helped me to manage at this difficult time.

"Throughout my training, I had some fantastic nurse mentors whom I learnt so much from. I worked hard, I was focussed and determined and I earned a diploma with distinction. I had the option of completing a further year to complete a BSc and by this time, was working in my first qualified job - on an adolescent inpatient unit.

"I was all set to continue working towards a degree, but I suffered a miscarriage with my first baby, which was completely devastating. My degree was put on hold. I struggled dealing with the loss of my baby and became depressed. I took some time off work and with the support and encouragement of my tutor, I resumed working towards a degree the following year, during which time, I had my daughter.

"Life is full of challenges and soon after my daughter was born, my relationship began to fall apart. Despite this I was determined to complete my degree. I thought that if I gave up I wouldn’t get another opportunity. My tutor would come to my home to give me tutorials whilst my daughter was either sleeping or playing! She was so supportive, and because of her support and belief in me I completed my dissertation and was the only nurse in my cohort that year to achieve a 1stclass degree. I literally fell off the sofa when she called to tell me! I was able to have my daughter attend my graduation, which was one of the proudest moments of my life.   

"Since qualifying, I have always worked in CAMHS – first on an inpatient unit and now in the community. In my current role I work with children and young people with autism (and complex mental health needs) and their families. I really enjoy this and I feel like I have found my focus, my ‘niche’. I have received further training in this post and have been able to develop. I feel proud of being able to share knowledge and skills with colleagues and being able to provide quality care to the families with whom I work.

"In recent years, I have experienced further mental health challenges which led to a long period off work – but that’s another story. This experience has led to me being involved with developing the Lived Experience Network (LEN) at South London and Maudsley which supports staff with lived experience of mental health challenges. Being involved with the LEN has provided me with opportunities to share my learning and to meet some amazing colleagues, whom I otherwise would not have met.

"Our life experiences shape us. I feel that I am fortunate to work in an area where I am able to use my life experiences – good and bad – as well as my training, to inform my approach to the work I do, which I hope is one of compassion, empathy and understanding. I have always felt proud to tell people I am a nurse – I feel privileged to work in a job where I can help make a difference to others. I can’t imagine doing anything else."

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