FNF mental health nurse investigates relationship between personal experiences and professional wellbeing of UK nurses


After qualifying as a nurse in 2000, Jennifer Oates started her career as a mental health nurse and has had a range of jobs along the way. Jennifer was granted a scholarship from the Florence Nightingale Foundation, sponsored by NHS Professionals, to complete her fourth year of a part time clinical PhD. As she hopes to submit her completed theses by 2015, Jennifer has decided to move out of full time work to concentrate on her research.

She recently left her job as a senior lecturer in nursing at the University of Hertfordshire but continues to work part-time in various ongoing roles. These include roles at the Care Quality Commission as a Mental Health Act Commissioner and as a registered nurse member of the governing body of a Clinical Commissioning Group.

Jennifer’s study is titled: “The relationships between personal experience of mental health problems and subjective wellbeing in UK mental health nurses”.

How did you hear about the Florence Nightingale Foundation? What was the application process like?
One of my PhD supervisors had received a Florence Nightingale Foundation scholarship and recommended that I apply for funding. The application process was straightforward but the interview was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I suppose this is necessary as they are investing in individuals who are committed and that can lead the profession in the future.

Why did you choose to conduct your research on this topic?
I initially became interested in mental health nursing due to family experience of mental illness. It seems like a lot of people get into the nursing profession because they have had a personal or family experience that has impacted their lives.

I am interested in moving research about nurses on from being about stress and burnout. It might be important to understand nurses who are coping well and enjoying their work. From them, we can potentially learn a lot more about how we can support the profession.

What are the aims of your research?
The overall aim of my research is to impact on the fields of both occupational and mental health. I hope the findings of this study will help to inform policy and practice about how we support mental health nurses to cope with their work. It’s an interesting study because not many people choose to research from a positive position.

What methods of research will you be using?
My research is a mixed methods study. It started with an online survey and then progressed to further interviews with 27 of the survey respondents who had scored high on measures of subjective wellbeing and also had personal or family experience of mental illness. At the moment, the data is being analysed and then there will be a thematic analysis of the interview data. Depending on the results, I might decide to use a more theoretically informed approach to the same data at some point.

What does the future hold for you?
I have spent the last seven or eight years in education, regulation, policy and commissioning and because of this I am fortunate enough to have a range of perspectives. Right now I am concentrating on what I have to do to complete my thesis so I’m not really thinking about what will happen after I finish the study. I would like to be involved in more research but I also enjoy the regulatory and policy work I currently do.

About the author

NHS Professionals administrator

NHS Professionals manages the temporary staffing needs of around 66 NHS Trusts across England. An integral part of the NHS, it aims to reduce Trusts’ spending on flexible workers without compromising quality, by providing greater transparency of demand and supplying bank staff at the best possible rate. Its bank of more than 40,000 flexible workers comprises general and specialist nurses, doctors, midwives, admin/clerical , allied health professionals, healthcare scientists, support services among other healthcare professionals.

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