Life on a female acute ward

Helen sparrow photo

My name is Helen and I am a newly qualified mental health nurse. I am one month into working on a female acute ward. Whenever I told people where I was going to work, I would get the same reaction; a negative ‘ooooh’ accompanied with a pained expression. This REALLY helped my nerves and comforted my anxieties of starting. ‘Women are so much worse than men’, ‘they are much more demanding’. I’m not entirely sure what they meant by this. Did they mean that women experience more ill mental health? The World Health Organisation shows that rates of mental illness are identical for men and women, however, women are twice as likely to develop depression or generalised anxiety disorder as men. I wonder if this is due to the expectations put on women in society, such as balancing work and family life. Moreover, women may be more likely to reach out to services with problems whereas men may bottle it up.

This ward is full on; it never stops. The women admitted on this ward are at a crisis point in their lives, where they need immediate help from professionals in a safe, clinical setting. This means that they are very mentally unwell, and the problems range from delusional beliefs, hallucinations, depression, personality disorders, self-harm, eating problems and substance misuse. Often these are combined with poor physical health; many of the women smoke and have a poor diet. These are also often combined with social problems such as having nowhere to live and having children who need looking after while their mum is in hospital.

All these important aspects of a woman’s life mean that the nursing team must look at the whole person to help them. This is called holistic care and involves working with different services and the patient’s families and carers. I have learnt that being a good nurse means having amazing communication skills and maintaining a compassionate nature always, even on those stressful days where you have a million things to do. It’s a hard job but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!