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Transforming mental health care in secure environments

Photograph of OU student Laury

Delivering healthcare in a forensic hospital, BSc (Hons) Nursing (Mental Health) student, Laury has harnessed her background as a journalist to launch a series of innovative projects to support the service users she works with.

Before her career change towards Mental Health nursing, Laury was an accomplished journalist specialising in human rights reporting, where she discovered a keen interest in social justice. Combining her genuine interest in the human condition with her ability to listen to people’s stories, Laury is inspired to work in forensic services with mental health service users and offenders.

“I am continually inspired by nursing staff on the ‘shop floor’ who work every day in the most challenging and volatile environments, but still manage to keep complex patients at the centre of their practice.”

Working with notoriously hard-to-reach individuals who’ve often leant to survive by not communicating nor engaging in pro-social activity can be challenging, but Laury has delivered several significant projects to date.

A visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York influenced the first of Laury’s successful projects – a photography exhibition focussed on how items take on cultural significance (e.g. the hoodie becoming synonymous with dysfunctional gang culture among urban youth). In this setting, where an MP3 player may be used as a critical tool of distraction, every patient on the ward participated in choosing one item that symbolised something about their journey. These were all photographed, and the collaborative “Items” exhibition curated.

Seeing the benefits of artistic output from patients and having discovered the national arts charity ‘Hospital Rooms’ on a Channel 4 feature, Laury invited the charity founders to the exhibition. Impressed by the work, the Hospital Rooms team encouraged the Trust to apply for their next high-profile art project - funded by Arts Council England.

selection of images from projectsSuccessfully securing one of only six grants, the unit was partnered with several accomplished artists who delivered artistry workshops where patients developed skills and created personal artworks for exhibition. This showcase attracted media attention from across the globe with the likes of Elephant magazine, Mental Health Today and even the New Yorker interviewing patients. In addition, Laury has been a guest speaker at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery (London) and the Soho Members Club at the BBC Television Centre, and will speak at the Design in Mental Health conference next year.

Pushing boundaries further, Laury has established a blog site enabling service users to anonymously tell their stories – from problematic backgrounds, to detainment experiences, and their trajectories through the system. Some wrote in prose, some poetry or song, and others produced artwork displays. The blog’s attributes not only include nominations for a National Service User Award and a Nursing Times Award, but also reached far and wide: “it’s been read in 31 countries, shared by global mental health professionals (even the CQC!), and it was taken to a meeting of national NHS CEOs in London as an example of digital innovation.”

Studying her BSc (Hons) Nursing (Mental Health) with the OU has enabled Laury to balance working alongside delivering these incredible projects and raising a family - all whilst studying. “I’m a single mum, so it’s essential that I continue to work in my substantive role whilst training at the same time. This can be a challenge, but the flexibility of the OU makes it doable as I can fit study around childcare and other commitments.”

When asked about her OU study, Laury has been “really pleased with the flexibility of the course when juggling competing demands. In fact, I would not have been able to undertake this training without it. The materials are comprehensive, user-friendly, and enhanced by supportive tutors as well as informative tutorials.”

Laury’s study is sponsored by her employer, who has embraced partnership working to support the course, particularly in sourcing practice placements: “My employer has been extremely positive about the training and has worked with the OU to source interesting and varied practice placements. They have also let all students know how valued they are within the profession and have provided good supervision and opportunities for reflection.”

If you feel inspired by Laury’s passion and achievement, discover our BSc (Honours) Nursing degrees here.

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