Vickie Kearney’s blog: Eating disorder service team manager and clinical nurse specialist

Vickie Kearney is Child and Adolescent Eating Disorder Service Team Manager and Clinical Nurse Specialist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. Vickie supports young people experiencing mental illness and their families. 

Why I wanted to become a nurse

Whilst completing a BTEC at college I gained work experience every term in different health and social care areas. This experience supported my decision to train as a nurse and helped me choose the field of learning disability nursing. That was over 20 years ago!

How my career has developed

I started my nursing career as a forensic learning disability nurse on a medium secure unit. After a couple of years of practice I was seconded to gain my mental health nursing qualification.

For the following five years I worked in an outreach service for adults with severe psychosis and schizophrenia before changing practice completely and moving to work in a child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS).

While working in CAMHS I became especially interested in eating disorders and realised this was a passion. Four years ago I came to work as a clinical nurse specialist in CAMHS eating disorders and I now manage this service.

My career has progressed significantly therapeutically and operationally and I am trained to deliver specific cognitive behavioural therapy and family based treatments, as well as being the clinical lead for our multi-family therapy treatment program.

I have also completed PG Cert level training and completing a leadership qualification. My ambition is to conduct some research in the area of eating disorders.

On a typical day

I work flexible hours and start everyday at 8am. We have twice weekly assessment clinics where I join the pre and post assessment discussions. I deliver parent training programmes, support meals in clinic and facilitate multi family therapy workshops. The clinical care I deliver is mainly family based but I do work individually with some young people as well. Monitoring physical risks is a big part of the work in eating disorders. As a manger I also conduct regular audits and have to provide data against our KPI’s with explanations about breeches. This is crucial information to support and influence our commissioning.

How I’ve made a difference as a nurse? 

Working with young people experiencing mental illness is hugely rewarding. We are having an impact on functioning, recovery and resilience at a crucial stage of development that is likely to have a future impact as this person becomes an adult.

It can be challenging as young people do not always want help or are not motivated to receive help, but overcoming this and seeing people recover gives me an immense feeling of pride and drives my passion to be an ED nurse. This connection with young people and their families is a privilege at often a difficult time in people lives.

Breaking down the stigma of mental illness is a crucial part of our role in mental health services. In my current role I am very committed to developing as a leader including developing skills in clinical consultation, teaching and training, facilitating research within the service and working at a more strategic level influencing policy, practice, commissioning and budgets.

What would you say to someone interested in a career in nursing?

Get experience and talk to people doing the job. This will give you opportunities to follow your interest and passion. Nursing is an extremely diverse career, with many opportunities and I could not imagine doing anything else even after all these years.