Staff and careers

12 May, 2019

Marking International Nurses Day: A Day in the Life

Three members of the nursing team at St Patrick's Mental Health Services stand outside the entrance to St Patrick's University Hospital in Dublin, with the LUAS seen in the background.

Hear from a member of our nursing team on what a career in mental health nursing is like.

Shane Kirwan is the Nurse Practice Development Coordinator here in St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS). Here, Shane tells us about how he came into the nursing profession and discusses what a typical day in his working life looks like.

Becoming a psychiatric nurse

Becoming a psychiatric nurse

I started my nursing career in 1999 and began my training in St Patrick’s University Hospital (SPUH), in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin.

I have a strong background in nursing as my mother and father are also mental health nurses and have recently retired. My uncle previously worked in SPUH as a mental health nurse, so I can very much say there’s nursing blood within the family. In addition to this, my many years of nursing led me to meet my wife who is a general trained nurse – so I guess I owe nursing a lot!

I qualified in 2002 in SPMHS and worked for a period, before I moved abroad to England and Australia, working as a nurse in both countries and gaining experience with different services in different mental health settings. When I returned home to Ireland, I came back to SPUH and started working in acute care in the Dean Swift Ward. This gave me invaluable experience dealing with the Irish Mental Health Act and supporting service users who were in acute distress.

Building my experience as a nurse

Building my experience as a nurse

From my ward experience, I was successful in applying for a Clinical Nurse Manager 2 role in the Admissions Department in SPUH. This was a new role to the organisation, and it was the first clinical lead within the Admissions Department. I was the clinical lead for the Admissions Department for seven years, which entailed bed management of SPUH, a 241-bedded hospital. It also entailed review of all referrals to our service, including those for admission and referrals to the Dean Clinics.

One of the successful aspects of my role in admissions was the part it played in establishing nurses to complete admission assessments within the hospital: nurse-led assessments are now an integral part of admission to SPMHS.

From here, I was seconded to the Design Advisory Team for the implementation of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) in SPMHS. I was selected as the nursing lead, in conjunction with a lead pharmacist and consultant psychiatrist. Our work as a Design Advisory Team led to the successful implementation of our EHR in October 2017. My previous nursing experience from acute care in the United Kingdom (UK), Australia and Ireland, and several years in admissions, was essential to the successful implementation, configuration and build for the EHR.

In the past year, I have returned to the nursing world as Nurse Practice Development Coordinator in SPMHS.

SPUH has provided me with excellent experience over the years between acute care, general adult care, admission assessments, triage of referrals, management of involuntary referrals and involuntary admissions and clinical informatics. I have also been lucky enough to obtain funding from the hospital to complete my Master’s degree in Nursing through TCD, which was of major benefit to me to progress my career going forward.

Looking at a day in my nursing life

My typical day usually involves arriving at the Nurse Education Centre and meeting up with its team, which includes the Clinical Placement Coordinators and Allocations Officer. Every morning, we discuss current plans for the day, which will entail liaison with all our students, from first year to fourth year, and liaising with external students who avail of specialist placements within SPUH.

Looking at a day in my nursing life

In managing the Nurse Education Centre, I ensure the development of excellence in nursing practice, including setting and meeting objectives in the service and monitoring their effectiveness. Part of my role involves daily participation in establishing and developing nursing service support systems from clinical and non-clinical departments. A busy day can also entail several meetings, such as the Clinical Governance Committee, Clinical Nurse Managers’ Meeting, Senior Nurse Managers’ Meeting, Drugs and Therapeutic Committee, Clinical Counsel and the Research and Ethics Committee.

A major part of my role is the managing, monitoring and development of nursing metrics, including data collection, and preparation and dissemination of monthly reports to the Director of Nursing and Nurse Managers. The collection of nursing metrics is a team effort, and this is done by Clinical Placement Coordinators, Clinical Nurse Managers and staff nurses across the organisation.

The role also promotes nurses’ participation in research, facilitating research projects and taking part in relevant nursing research. I receive daily requests for Continued Professional Development (CPD) funding for courses that staff feel they wish to use for further development. These are reviewed weekly and we try to facilitate requests for funding for short courses for CPD. I also accept funding applications for postgraduate courses which we accommodate for several staff members every year, and these are selected through a review process with the Director of Nursing.

I also collaborate with TCD to improve the quality of clinical learning for student nurses, address any performance or disciplinary-related issues, and contribute to the development of nurse education. This involves attending TCD for several meetings, which include reviews of the curriculum of the undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and the joint working group, a meeting of all hospitals that have a relationship with TCD. The joint working group is a valuable meeting, as it provides perspectives from other mental health services and general hospitals, regarding their management of student nurses and the curriculum that we provide.

I’m very proud to be a nurse and the experience I’ve gained to date has been fantastic, especially in dealing with service users over the years. One great aspect of nursing is the friendships one builds working in different clinical environments.


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Nursing in St Patrick’s Mental Health Services - a rewarding career