"The rewards from helping people, especially armed forces veterans, make the job worthwhile."
Vicki Pattenden is Clinical Nurse Specialist with the London and South East NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison (TIL) Service.
“I’ve always worked for the NHS. At 18 I was a dental nurse before moving on to other roles that were usually in admin or on reception. But I knew that I wanted to be a nurse. My Nan was a nurse and I wanted to follow her example.
“For me it’s always been mental health. In previous jobs I often came into contact with people who were struggling with their mental health and I wanted to understand what was going on for them, and I’ve always been curious – still am – about how the mind works.
“That curiosity led me to the Hellingly Centre in 2009 as a support worker. It seemed like a good way to see what it was like and it made me realise that being a mental health nurse was definitely what I wanted to do. I enjoyed the job but wanted to be more involved in care planning for people and have more responsibility for helping them in their recovery, so I started my nurse training.
“I studied full time but continued doing bank shifts at weekends at Hellingly, and later at Mill View Hospital in Hove. After I qualified in 2012, I worked at Lewes Prison for a period of time. In 2013, I left to further my studies, being offered a place on the health visitor course, where half way through I realised that it was the mental health pathway I wanted my career to go, so in 2014 I joined Sussex Partnership as a community mental health nurse in the Newhaven area.
“I’ve always had an interest in veterans’ mental health. My final year research project during training was on veterans. I also trained to become a champion for the Sussex Armed Forces Network, which meant that I would be involved with anybody referred to the assessment and treatment service that had a known military background. I knew that if the opportunity came up I wanted to work with veterans full time.
“I’m currently studying for a masters in veterans’ health and in 2017 we launched our TIL service, which gave me the chance to take on a full time specialist role. Although we’re relatively new it’s a job that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve got a really good team around me who are passionate about their jobs.
“The NHS has given me good opportunities and I’m really lucky that I’ve had the chance to progress to where I am since qualifying. The rewards from helping people, especially armed forces veterans, make the job worthwhile. And knowing that they are going to get something out of the work I do with them, gives me something back.”