Community Mental Health – Laura Miller

Laura is currently working as a trainee Advanced Practitioner in an Adult Community Mental Health Team at Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust.
Laura is a registered Mental Health Nurse by professional background and has previously worked across a multitude of mental health services before commencing on her advanced practice journey.

What inspired you to become an advanced practitioner?

It was clear to me that Advanced Practitioners can lead and support transformation of services, particularly in mental health allowing them to address the unmet needs of our service users.  I think it’s important for healthcare professionals to be able to broaden their capabilities to improve quality of care for our service users. I also wanted to develop and build my career whilst remaining in a clinically-based role, advanced practice offers this opportunity.  

How does Advanced Practice Benefit Patient Care?

Advanced Practitioners working in the mental health setting play a key role in bridging the gap between physical and mental health, particularly with the skills learned in the physical assessment module of the Advanced Practice MSc. These skills are particularly useful in mental health as people with severe mental illness have up to 20 years reduction in life expectancy than the general population, most commonly due to physical health conditions which are unrecognised and untreated. This role benefits patients through the ability to manage both mental health conditions, but also support the same patients to access care and support of physical health needs.

Alongside this, Advanced Practitioners also are a key facilitator in service transformation, identifying and supporting changes for the benefit of service users, such as supporting to wider pathway discussions around treatment pathways. One example of this is supporting the implementation of peer supported open dialogue training, which is an individual specific approach that puts patients at the centre of their support network. It is adapted to their unique needs when working with adults accessing mental health services, the service is a pilot site and this being developed over 2024, with the early delivery already started.

How do you see your Future as an Advanced Practitioner?

I am currently a relatively newly qualified non-medical prescriber, and look forward to continuing to build my confidence in this skill set, to the benefit of both patients and the wider service, whilst implementing improvements that will allow for more seamless and responsive care.  

I am due to qualify in July 2024 and will be creating a job plan that fits the needs of the service. The aspiration is to incorporate up to 80% clinical time with the remaining 20% dedicated to education, research and leadership. I will be supporting the continuing work on improving our ADHD pathway, which includes a training package to support staff who are caring for patients whilst they are on a waiting list for an ADHD assessment. Educationally, I am keen to continue to support development opportunities for the multi-disciplinary team in the Community Mental Health service, which includes development through delivery of training.  

What is the most enjoyable part of your training, and what is the most challenging?

The most enjoyable part of my role is being able to expand my skills to benefit patient care. My role aims to provide a seamless service from start to finish by supporting adult patients with severe mental health needs to remain in the community, and so prevent hospital admissions. The most challenging part of my training has been juggling the academic work alongside my clinical role and developing my leadership skills, these have been made less challenging with careful planning and support from the wider team, as well as prioritising my own self-care. 

Read more advanced practice case studies from the South West region here