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Interview with Kate Searles, Registered Mental Health Nurse

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

Miss Kate Searles is a Registered Mental Health Nurse, qualified in 2001. We are so grateful that she has shared with us her valuable insight and we hope you enjoy reading about such interesting and varied career!


What is your background/journey to where you are now?

I trained at the University of Southampton and have worked in a number of different roles during my career. The area that I have specialised in most has been the treatment of Personality Disorders. I currently have two different jobs. I work part time at Exeter University as a Mental Health Mentor, and I also work part time in the NHS in an Intensive Day Treatment Programme for people with a diagnosis of Personality Disorder. Previously I have worked in inpatient and community settings, and forensics.

What does a typical day currently look like?

As I do two jobs, my days are very different in each! At the university my day involves meeting with students on a 1:1 basis to support with any issues around their mental health, or difficulties that they may be experiencing academically. Mentors work closely with other departments within the University, and local NHS and voluntary services to link students in with the most appropriate support for them.

In my NHS job I work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. My day begins with a handover and planning for the day. The Day Treatment Programme runs as a Therapeutic Community and includes psychosocial groups, and a range of therapies. The team are working relationally with the patient group throughout the day, continually assessing risk, and supporting therapeutic goals. Throughout the day we liaise closely with other NHS teams, GP's and private sector housing and support providers... And of course, there is the admin! 

Can you tell us about your professional interests?

My specialist area of nursing is in the treatment of personality disorder. Sadly, this is a diagnosis that can still remain misunderstood, even by many clinicians. I would like to see more education around this, and in the future, I think it would be helpful for terminology (and the name of the diagnosis) to be changed to reflect the challenges and developmental trauma often faced by individuals who have this diagnosis.   

Are you involved in education/research/leadership? If so in what capacity? What does those roles bring to you?

Not currently, but I previously ran psych education courses within the Ambulance Service, teaching front line clinicians about common mental health presentations, and how to look after their own mental health in times of stress. It was great to connect with colleagues and share learning in a way which positively impacts practice and improves outcomes for patients in mental health crisis. 

Could you talk about mental health nursing (why this is a great field to be in)?

I will always be proud of my nursing background and think that as nurses we can make a real difference to individuals and families. Over the course of my career I have worked with so many wonderful and interesting people, and believe whole heartedly that understanding the person, and the story behind a label or behavior are key to forming successful relationships and recovery. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

When working in mental health, one of the strongest areas of our work is the therapeutic relationship. Gaining trust and being accepted to walk alongside a person on their journey is a huge privilege. Achievements are felt when you begin to see confidence, wellbeing, and hope returning.

Any tips for students and junior trainee who want to apply to your field?

Mental health nursing is a fantastic career, and a vocation that I feel proud to be in. My advice would be to remain compassionate and person centered, go the extra mile but look after yourself and your own wellbeing. You will make memories that you will keep for life, some happy some sad, and you will find great friends in your colleagues, along with lots of humor and support when it is most needed.

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