Catherine Carver’s blog – Interviewing new staff for MBU, St John’s Hospital

Catherine Carver is a member of Maternal Mental Health Scotland, Change Agents.

As we meandered through the traffic, my mind was occupied with the secure mundanity of the weekly shop: Milk. Bread. Eggs. Blueberries? But last time I gave them to her, she dipped them in yoghurt and carpet bombed the floor. Hmmm, maybe not. Then slap! I was suddenly ejected from my safe space by the signs: St John’s Hospital. We were going back to the scene of the crime (or at least that’s how it felt) and we were getting closer and closer. Gulp.

You see in June 2016 I had come to St John’s Hospital in a state of mania, with florid postpartum psychosis and a conviction that the place existed to collect up bad mums (like me) to replace their babies with robots. It was one of the hardest times in my life, and was followed by another stay later in the year for severe postnatal depression. Yet it was also the place filled with the people who got me well, got me back on my feet and enabled my husband, baby and I to have a family life. It had been my port in one hell of a storm, and I owed it a lot.

Which is why, on a Wednesday in September 2017, I found myself approaching it again, though this time without any delusions or hallucinations, just a bit of nerves! As a former patient and as a Change Agent for Maternal Mental Health Scotland (MMHS) I had been invited by the Senior Charge Nurse to join their interview panel selecting for two new nurses for the ward. When she asked I felt privileged and appreciative – it was evidence that they cared deeply about the patient perspective. This didn’t surprise me, the Livingston MBU puts patients at the heart of their decisions, and this was just another example of that positive ethos. This was no token effort – I was treated as an equal. I had to come up with three questions in advance, which I obviously themed around the patient perspective, and ran them past the Senior Charge Nurse, who was thankfully happy with them.

As I made my way through the maze of corridors to the MBU, it was with a sense of trepidation. I had interviewed people as part of a previous job, but this felt new, more nerve-wracking. I rang the buzzer. But once I walked onto the ward I was greeted like an old friend, and all the nerves just disappeared. I had this. Each interview went well – I asked my questions confidently and discussed my views openly as we reviewed each candidate at the end. By the time the afternoon was finished we selected the successful applicants and I was ready to be on my way. I walked out of the building pleased that I had been able to bring the patient voice to the table, it’s the whole reason I am a Change Agent with MMHS. I was also proud of the MBU for allowing that opportunity – it’s not something they’d done before, but hopefully something they will do again.

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