On 26 October 2016 more than 1,100 nursing professionals gathered at the Grosvenor House Hotel for the Nursing Times Awards, to hear which initiatives have inspired the nursing community over the past year.
Dionne Levy, a specialist mental health midwife at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, has won the Rising Star Award, which was co-sponsored by NHS Professionals, NHS England and The Florence Nightingale Foundation. The Rising Star Award aims to recognise a nurse who has been qualified for less than five years, and demonstrates exceptional qualities that embody the best of nursing and the leadership skills to inspire others to follow their example.
We spoke to Dionne to find out more about her role as a midwife and her plans for the future.
Hi Dionne, how did it feel to win the Rising Star Award?
I was completely shocked, I wasn’t expecting to win at all. I was really humbled and pleased, especially being a midwife and being surrounded by nurses it was really nice. I was able to bring the doctor who nominated me with me to the awards too.
What is your role?
I’m a perinatal mental health midwife at St Mary’s and Queen Charlotte’s hospital, which is part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
What made you want to go into midwifery?
I’ve been a midwife since late 2010. Before this, I worked as a PA for an auditors but I was really bored and wanted a change of career, but I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. In 2006 I had my last child and had my midwifery care at St Mary’s Hospital. I found the staff so lovely and they all seemed to be enjoying their job. It wasn’t until my previous employer got in touch with me when I was on maternity leave to ask when I was returning to work that I realised I didn’t want to go back there.
I then had a leaflet drop through the door about access to nursing and decided to apply. This was a yearlong course, but the majority of people on the course were going on to a nursing degree, only two of us were going to study midwifery. We were advised not to do this because it’s such a difficult course to get onto, but we stuck to our guns and got into Thames Valley University and I did my training at St Mary’s Hospital.
Why did you get into mental health nursing?
When I was a year qualified I was working in the antenatal clinic and a lady disclosed domestic violence to me. At that point she lived out of our catchment area so I couldn’t refer her to anyone. That’s when I saw there was a gap in the service and I spoke to my manager to ask what I could do with this lady. She told me there wasn’t anything I could do apart from see her myself, so every time she came in for her appointments I saw her myself. I then spoke to a Band 8 midwife, a senior manager, and asked whether I could see the women who did not meet the criteria for 1-1 midwifery care because they lived outside our catchment area. It didn’t happen straight away, but after about a year I was approached by our safeguarding midwife who asked if I wanted to run a clinic for vulnerable women who live outside of our catchment area. It became so popular that I had over a 100 people on my caseload. I worked very closely with the mental health team at Imperial, where I learnt a lot from them as there weren’t many courses on it. I saw there was a job going for a perinatal mental health midwife so I applied and have been doing the job since May 2015.
Could you tell me a little bit about your work?
I run two clinics a week on each site. I work closely with the safeguarding team and we have regular meetings once a week. A lot of my caseload fall under safeguarding, so it’s easier to track the cases by having regular meetings. A lot of my patients have severe mental illness including bipolar, severe anxiety and depression, PTSD, but also women who have become low during pregnancy. I also review patients on the ward if they have low mood after their pregnancy. Occasionally I will attend births as well. For instance, if a woman is having a planned caesarean and she’s under my caseload I try my best to support her during her caesarean.
Why do you think you were nominated for the award?
From what was written about me from the psychiatrist who nominated me, she said I go out of my way for my patients. Although my hours are 9-5, I work outside of those hours. All the women have my mobile number, so sometimes I get a text or phone call at the weekend or in the evenings and I’ll always answer the phone. If they’re attending the hospital for anything I will come and support them.
What is the best part of your job?
I would be lost if I wasn’t doing clinical work and working with the women. If I was just doing reports and going to meetings it would bore me. The women like seeing the same person when they come in for their appointments, I know their stories so they don’t have to tell them over and over again. The women see me as an advocate for them. Most of my caseload have a social worker, but they’re seen as the enemy. I hope they see me as support for them, to get through their pregnancy.
Are there any particular challenges to your job?
Sometimes women can be difficult, particularly if they are unwell. It can be a challenge as they can be quite rude and insulting but you just have to brush it off as you know they are unwell. Some who have anxiety ask you a question and you answer it but they’ll ask it again in another way – you just have to be patient with them.
How important is it that nurses are recognised for awards like this?
It’s nice that the Nursing Times do the awards, nurses and midwives work very long hours, most of the time working longer than we are supposed to, and without a break. It is nice to be recognised by our peers for doing a job that we enjoy.
Do you have any advice for young nurses and students?
Not to be afraid to speak out, if you think there’s a gap in the service or think something is missing, voice your concerns to managers. You may think you’re not being listened to but they do listen, take heed of what you’re saying, and listen to the people on the frontline.
What do you do in your spare time?
Work takes up a huge amount of my time. When I’m at home I’m also reading article on mental health. I also enjoy spending time with my boys and take my younger son to football.
What are your plans for the future?
I don’t think I could ever leave mental health. I would like a team behind me so we can provide group sessions for women, so they can feel reassured that they aren’t the only ones suffering and that there are other people in the same situation as them. This could be through antenatal classes just for mental health patients as so many think NCT classes would be out of place for them.