The Nightingale Challenge: Meera's Career Journey

12 March 2020 . United Kingdom

Bupa has accepted the Nightingale Challenge, an initiative launched by Nursing Now at the International Council of Nurses Congress, which aims to develop the next generation of nursing leaders during 2020, the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. 

From dental to mental health to care services, we want to share our nurse’s career journeys. Here, we speak to Meera Phull, Clinical Collaboration Lead at Bupa Group.

When did you first realise you were interested in working in health?

I first realised I was interested in working in healthcare when I studied psychology at A-level. I found the subject endlessly fascinating, and still do.  I developed a strong interest in the mind and decided I wanted to pursue a career that would be enable me to understand this better and help people experiencing mental illness.

What made you want to be a nurse?

I knew I loved psychology and wanted to work within mental health in a caring capacity but didn’t know which area or discipline I might like to specialise in. I felt that nursing would provide me with a strong foundation to grow and would expose me to lots of different areas.

My nurse training was hugely challenging but provided me with such rich and unforgettable experiences through my clinical placements, from acute adolescent care and a rehabilitation ward to psychiatric liaison and a specialist deaf service.

What would you say are the key qualities required to be a nurse?

Compassion, courage, patience, emotional strength, resilience and a genuine desire to want to help people. 

What are the major milestones that have marked your career?

Three major milestones stand out to me as having marked my career so far.

The first is graduating as a mental health nurse which I continue to consider one of my biggest and proudest achievements overall.

The second is qualifying as a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.

The third is being able to practice as both a mental health nurse and CBT therapist, which involved me setting up and running a mental wellbeing service. This is something I’m not sure I would have believed I could do at the start of my career!

How has your career progressed since you qualified as a registered nurse?

Since qualifying as a registered nurse, I trained as a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. This helped me gain a much deeper understanding of specific disorders and their treatment, enabling me to support people in their recovery. My dual training and experience across two clinical professions enabled me to move into a role delivering a mental wellbeing service for a corporate client, supporting their employees by providing mental health assessments and triage as well as cognitive behavioural therapy and psycho-educational sessions. Being a clinician in the corporate world was a really valuable experience that helped me develop commercial awareness. It is through this that I became interested in moving into a position that would enable me to lead and support other clinicians and influence change at an organisational level. Now, in my current role as a Clinical Collaboration Lead, I work with clinicians from all over the world to support the development of strong clinical networks and the opportunity to share learning and best practice.

What difficulties did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

Whilst nursing is a hugely rewarding profession, it comes with its challenges. My first and biggest obstacle was to overcome a fear of needles as I was required to be able to administer injections in order to qualify!  That was extremely challenging and was something that genuinely threatened to jeopardise me entering this profession but with a huge amount of understanding, compassion and support from my mentors, I managed this and still feel excited to this day that needles no longer trouble me!

Who has inspired you along the way?

The individuals I have cared for and supported have been my biggest inspiration. I have been fortunate enough to work with some wonderful people who have experienced some unbelievable hardships and traumas in life who show huge amounts of strength, courage and perseverance to move past these experiences.

What would you tell your younger self, starting out as a nurse?

If I were able to speak to my younger self starting out as a nurse, I would give the advice to take care of myself. Nurses are often selfless but it is so important to recognise the importance of self-care because if we don’t prioritise our own needs and look after ourselves, we can’t do our best for those we care for. 

What do you hope that we achieve as a result of 2020, International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife?

I hope that we can redefine what it is to be a nurse, gain recognition for the incredible work that is achieved by the nursing and midwifery professions and inspire others to join us. When I was training to become a mental health nurse, I had thought the options available to me were to work on a ward or in a community mental health team but this no longer the case. We now have nurses in senior leadership roles, in clinical governance and risk, policy development, clinical research, teaching and in occupational health. I would love for our next generations to be more informed of the exciting and varied opportunities that nursing can bring.