Priscilla Nzounhenda, who is a matron on a psychiatric intensive care unit and rehabilitation unit at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, spoke to Nursing Times about what attracted her to the role
How would you describe your role to someone you’ve just met?
“I am the operational and clinical lead for the psychiatric intensive care unit and a rehabilitation ward. My role is to support staff in delivering compassionate and quality care for patients when they are most unwell.”
What does your typical working day look like?
“It starts with a handover of clinical activities and incidents and any service needs that have arisen. I support the multidisciplinary team in finding a service user-led approach to finding solutions to clinical challenges. I also oversee the psychiatric intensive care unit’s referral process, ensuring patients have appropriate ward placements and that services meet their needs in a safe environment.”
What attracted you to your current role?
“Psychiatric intensive care units are challenging environments due to the high acuity, heightened risks and complex clinical presentations. I’m attracted to such clinical settings because of the need to quickly build therapeutic relationships to help people at their most vulnerable. The rehabilitation ward is a step down from inpatient care to the community. Service users usually present as settled but need intense support with housing and other social needs.”
What made you want to become a nurse?
“Family and friends in nursing contributed a lot to my choice of profession. Nursing has always been my passion, as I naturally enjoy supporting people with their needs. I have always felt it a privilege to help people improve their quality of life, reducing stress and enabling recovery.”
Who has had the biggest impact on your career?
“People using our services have taught me so much. I have learnt how to communicate with highly distressed patients and how tiny things make a huge difference. I have had many role models, including a matron I worked with a few years ago, who taught me genuine clinical leadership.”
What do you enjoy most about your role?
“Interacting with service users, joining them in activities, and seeing them getting well and moving on with their lives. Additionally, providing supervision and coaching to staff and seeing them grow into clinical leadership roles.”
What’s been the stand-out moment in your career so far?
“Graduating as a mental health nurse was incredible. I had finally achieved my goal. Also, representing my trust at the NHS 74th anniversary event at Downing Street, sharing my story as a nurse with the nation’s leaders.”
What are your ambitions for the future?
“I want to develop my leadership and management skills to be a leader who leads from the front and can be trusted and relied upon. I’d eventually like to be chief nurse for NHS England.”
What advice would you give to someone who wanted a job like yours?
“Being patient and poised under pressure is key to success. Be true to yourself and always put patients at the centre of decision-making. Be willing to challenge yourself and learn from your successes and failures.”
Name: Priscilla Nzounhenda
Job title: Matron, psychiatric intensive care unit and a rehabilitation unit
Employer: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT)
Main responsibilities: Clinical and operational oversight of the units; clinical audit; clinical governance; acute service pathway; dealing with incidents and making sure outcomes are shared with the team and trust
Salary (or range/band): 8A
Average hours worked: 37.5 hours
Career history: Ward manager, medium secure unit (male), NSFT (15 months); clinical case manager, children, young people and families service, NSFT (18 months); staff nurse, medium secure unit (female) and low secure unit (female), Priory Group (3 years); team leader, Crabbe Street Dementia Home (6 years)
Qualifications: BSc mental health nursing, BA economics (minor) and international relations (major)