Celebrating our nurses and midwives: Laurence's story
Laurence Drew became a mental health nurse to help people with their mental health needs, in particular men, who may struggle to acknowledge their feelings. This is his story.
"I became a mental health nurse by sheer chance! I originally studied sport at university and wanted to pursue a career in this, but after struggling to get a job, I started looking at different areas I could work in. At the time, my stepdad left the fire service to become a mental health nurse and suggested I got involved too. I was very fortunate that I was able to apply my previous sports degree and convert my learning, to work with both mental health patients and individuals with profound learning disabilities, using sport as a vehicle to engage, but also treat.
"The more time I spent working in mental health, the more I wanted to learn. I realised that for many people, things are rarely straightforward - it’s important to see people as individuals and think holistically about how to meet their care needs. I became fascinated by the whole concept of mental health and how it can affect us all. This got me thinking about my future career and how I could make a difference to people’s lives.
"I went back to university to complete my nursing degree. Since qualifying, I’ve worked in a variety of settings, including community mental health, psychiatric liaison and forensic services. Along the way, I’ve met many inspirational people – some have been colleagues, but many have been the patients themselves. They’ve shared how mental health has influenced them and they’ve taught me a lot about myself.
"I realised that for many people, things are rarely straightforward - it’s important to see people as individuals and think holistically about how to meet their care needs."
"I am particularly proud to have worked with men across all ages, who like myself, have struggled with acknowledging their feelings for fear of being viewed as ‘weak’. This was true of some of the young men I treated in Broadmoor Hospital. This was where I realised there are different ways to engage with people and that doing something physically demanding, such as playing sport, can help us to be more open. I’ve had some of the best and most meaningful interactions in these settings and I’m proud to have been nominated by my patients for a Care Quality Award in recognition of this different working approach.
"I’ve always enjoyed having students and learning from them – it’s kept me on my toes and enabled me to develop my own practice. With my experience of teaching and training in NHS trusts, I decided to move into an educational role, and was lucky to secure a Teaching Fellow in Mental Health Nursing post at Surrey. I’m honoured to be training the next generation of mental health nurses and using my own experiences to prepare my students for their future careers. Each one wants to make positive changes to mental health care delivery and their patient’s lives – their motivation reminds me of why I chose to pursue this career.
"It’s a joy to be surrounded by like-minded people who want to make a difference – it really does make it easy to come to work!"