Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust

The greatest success stories are the individual lives that can be transformed when an employer takes a positive approach to mental health at work.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has engaged with WorkPlace Leeds to support a number of employees with mental health issues, including registered nurse Vicki Dinning.

” For me, the challenge is always about finding the right balance between doing the job I love and keeping myself well”

Vicki Denning, nurse:

“I’ve been qualified as a nurse for almost 10 years. It’s a difficult job with lots of pressure and stress, but I love it – and it’s fundamental to who I am. For me, the challenge is always about finding the right balance between doing the job I love and keeping myself well. To maintain your wellbeing in this kind of environment brings many challenges. 

My mental health problems started when I was very young. I’ve been in hospital with severe depression several times. When I first met my WorkPlace Leeds job retention specialist, Michaela Hill, I’d been off sick for 2-3 months. Before, I’d always put myself under pressure to get back as quickly as possible, which ultimately hindered the process. Michaela encouraged me to avoid repeating the same patterns all over again. I realised there was a different, more sustainable approach that would help me stay well at work in the long term.

Michaela was an advocate for me in dealing with managers and occupational health assessments. She also helped me to break down my worries and work towards resolving them. I opened up more and acknowledged when I was struggling, which stopped things building up over time. I had regular supervisions with my manager Nikki where she genuinely asked: “How are you doing?” If something was difficult, we worked on a solution together. Michaela suggested I draw up a contract with Nikki where I identified early warning signs and we agreed to talk about issues as they came up. Nikki had always been afraid to approach me before, and I’d often denied there was anything wrong when she did. The contract helped us to be honest and tackle things rather than push it to one side. We can even laugh about it all sometimes now because the trust is there. I haven’t had any time off sick this year, which is brilliant.”

“My skills as a manager have really improved”

Nikki Melling, sister:

“It  was really useful to meet with the job retention specialist and talk about depression and how it can affect you. I could see that some things we’d found hard were part of Vicki’s illness. We felt like we’d tried everything to support her, but she was still going off sick. I wondered if we’d done something wrong, but Michaela reassured us we were doing our best. She answered our questions and supported us to deal with the situation more effectively.

The contract was very helpful, because it empowered me to encourage Vicki to open up. If she said she was fine, I could say: “But you’re not fine, you’re doing the things you said were early warning signs – so what needs to happen to keep you well?” I could adjust her workload or suggest she take a couple of days leave, or just talk things through. Regular supervision has been really helpful. There’s always a limit to what can be done on a busy unit, but we’d work out a realistic solution together. Now, when other members of the team are showing signs of stress or anxiety, I feel able to talk to them about it. My skills as a manager have really improved, and I’m a lot more informed about mental health. As a manager, you need your staff at work rather than off sick. I feel I am now doing what I can to support my staff to stay in work and stay healthy. At the beginning we invested a lot of time in the process of getting things right with Vicki – and it’s really paid off. It’s great to see such a good nurse making the most of her skills.