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To take a job in a secure mental health unit for people with schizophrenia

(48 Posts)
user1483474832 Wed 04-Jan-17 13:04:34

My brother had schizophrenia and committed suicide. He was sectioned under the mental health act his entire adult life.

I've been offered a job as the managing social worker of a secure mental health facility working with men with schizophrenia and personality disorders. Most of whom have committed a serious crime such as murder.

My friends think it sounds truly awful. My parents are worried the service users will become fixated on me or I will be in danger. My brother used to become obsessed and dangerous so they're treating all people with schizophrenia like they're him.

Currently I work as a hospital social worker but the department is being closed so I need to find a new job. I have found it impossible to find another job as a hospital social worker and I think that's because my experience has been limited to a very cushy team working with children with learning disabilities. This job would give me incredible experience and the ability (hopefully) to then apply for a nicer job in a general hospital as a hospital social work manager.

My parents don't want me to take the job. They said no pretty young lady should work under those circumstances. The interviewer when he called me in to check references even told me he was expecting some service users to become a bit fixated on me.

I'm not tying to be boastful I'm not saying I'm a stunner but I'm an average young woman.

AIBU to take this job?

If I take it and I hate it it will damage my job chances if I leave without another job offer.

I'm currently having driving lessons. I would really struggle to be in th community as a social work manager without a car. Once I have a car I can get a job pretty easily.

What do you think?

user1483474832 Wed 04-Jan-17 13:05:27

Sorry, just realised the bit about my brother looks out of place. Only mentioned it so people know I have real experience with someone with schizophrenia so not going into this blind.

Rixera Wed 04-Jan-17 13:07:52

If you feel you can do the job, take it.
Who gives a stuff what anyone else thinks? And if they do become fixated, and you can't manage that and they can't be assigned another key worker or w.e, you can leave.

MissMatchedSocks Wed 04-Jan-17 13:10:17

Do you want to take the job? It isn't up to anybody else whether they think you should take it or not, you're the one that will be doing it.

If you want the job then go for it.

MatildaTheCat Wed 04-Jan-17 13:11:55

Could you ask to spend a day or two shadowing the current post holder to get a feel for the place and how it is run?

user1483474832 Wed 04-Jan-17 13:17:03

I'm thinking of asking for an informal visit. I'm going to ring today.

I do want the job. But worried I'm going in all excited and not logically thinking

redexpat Wed 04-Jan-17 13:19:44

Sounds v interesting!

FruitCider Wed 04-Jan-17 13:20:10

During my nurse training I used to bank as a HCA on a unit similar to what you described. I absolutely loved it!

MrsPeelyWally Wed 04-Jan-17 13:22:27

Look, someone has to do the job and if you've been found to have the skills needed then go for it. There will be all sorts of things in place that mean staff are protected, and people will be looking out for patients developing fixations on the staff.

I speak as the mum of an adult son who is heavily medicated with anti psychotic drugs amongst others.

pointythings Wed 04-Jan-17 14:11:39

I think you should do it. You'll bring a form of lived experience to the job that will be hugely valuable.

FWIW a friend of mine worked as a psychologist in a high security prison for men with personality disorders, most of whom had committed serious crime. She ended up moving to something less stressful, but learned an enormous amount and did good work in the years she was there.

There will be a lot of procedures in place to keep staff safe. I work in MH research on a hospital site, opposite a medium secure unit. We have the police round fairly often - but not so frequently to the medium secure units, far more often to the other inpatient units.

hula16 Wed 04-Jan-17 14:14:04

A friend of mine does a very similar role. She has to wear trousers and minimal make up so she isnt making herself more appealing.
She loves the role and finds it very rewarding.
If you want the job and feel you can make a difference to these patients do it!

MatildaWormwoodRoolsOK Wed 04-Jan-17 14:23:06

OP, I am sure you know this, but to point out for the benefit of others: not all men in secure MH units pose a sexual risk to female staff. Many of the patients will be there to prevent them from harming themselves. Some will be gay.

flowers I am sorry about your brother, though. I can see why your personal experiences make this a difficult decision.

PeachBellini123 Wed 04-Jan-17 14:25:36

I think the 'pretty young lady' line is a bit silly. So only ugly, big men should do this job?

I'd say if you want to go for it, go for it. Sounds like you have the skills and empathy for the role.

attheendoftheday Wed 04-Jan-17 14:27:36

I've worked in a unit like this. It was honestly fine. No more fixation than any other area as far as I'm aware!

Scribblegirl Wed 04-Jan-17 14:35:52

My cousin is young, short-ish, quite skinny and very pretty (she was a finalist for a beauty competition last year).

She's also a pretty kick-ass mental health nurse and works with people with a range of personality disorders in a secure hospital in a dodgy bit of London. She's fantastic with some of the worst cases - in fact, she's been promoted to a higher role despite being rather young for it.

I don't know if she does face times like those your parents envisage - I assume she does - but she's one of those people who I can see clearly adores her job, and I think that makes the world of difference to her (like hula's friend!)

I understand your parents reservations but there is no reason you shouldn't take this job if you want to. Good idea about the informal shadowing, too.

x2boys Wed 04-Jan-17 14:54:09

i worked in acute psychiatry for years when i first qualified as an RMN some 20+ years ago i was 22 and pretty i suppose ,the job can be stressful at times ,and things do 'kick off' sometimes but in 20 odd years apart from the odd slap etc i was never injured also nobody ever fixated on me it can happen but i would expect measures to be put in place by managers if that were the case.

grannytomine Wed 04-Jan-17 15:06:25

Before I retired I was a personnel manager and recruited people to work with a similar client group. In a well managed setting I wouldn't have any worries about your safety as long normal procedures in place e.g. never giving out details of where you live even in a general way about area, ideally not living very close to hospital so you aren't bumping into people on unescorted leave etc.

My main worry would be if your history with your brother caused you any problems, I know sometimes it is hard to separate these things I know staff who had problems with this.

I think it is worth visiting and seeing how you feel.

Stormwhale Wed 04-Jan-17 15:11:41

I have worked in a similar unit. I found my appearance made my life a lot harder than my male colleagues or more butch looking female colleagues. I received threats, physical/ sexual intimidation and attempts of violence, attempts at manipulation for their personal gain, and generally had to work ten times harder to maintain a professional relationship with the patients. It's not easy, but I liked the challenge. You need balls of steel though. Security measures are in place, and you learn good self defence and restraint techniques. Just think about how you would feel in the sort of situations I have described.

Freesialala Wed 04-Jan-17 15:19:44

If you're experienced enough to be offered this role I'm suprised you've not had to handle boundary issues/fixations before, or seen colleagues deal with them, and surely it was covered in your degree?? Also do reflect that the dangerous mental crims are actually deeply vulnerable individuals who require a high standard of support from dedicated staff, rather than people who are using this distasteful icky job as a springboard to something nicer. I have experience in forensic settings (which I'm assuming this is) before I'm jumped on and I don't think you're the best person to work with these clients judging by your op.

Aftertheraincomesthesun Wed 04-Jan-17 15:26:52

If this a job that is hard to fill, could you negotiate a trial period of say three months?

CoconutGal Wed 04-Jan-17 15:34:10

I start work in a prison soon with highly dangerous offenders as a nurse. My family & friends thought it was a terrible idea, I saw potential & a challenge that I want to take. I have no idea what I'm letting myself in for as it's not what I am used to, however, take the challenge by the horns & go for it!

ElphabaTheGreen Wed 04-Jan-17 15:45:49

There are risk assessments done on risk assessments done on risk assessments in high secure MH units to ensure staff are safe and protected. Don't be swayed by your friends/family who have no experience as professionals working in this area - it's a very different kettle of fish to being a relative.

Did you not do any similar placements as a student? Or have uni friends/colleagues who work/have worked in this area? Surely this should inform your decision more than the inexperienced opinions of family members.

Sienna9522 Wed 04-Jan-17 15:56:20

I'm a mental health nurse and work in a secure forensic hospital with adult males.

My God, no wonder so much stigma is attached to mental health. To assume the entire population of the hospital will find you attractive and make you a target because you're young and female and they are male and have a MH illness or personality disorder, is absurd.

Anyway, if it's anything like the hospital I work at, as a social worker you will have much less patient contact than ward staff such as nurses and support workers. The risks of you getting hurt in anyway are far less.

MelbourneClown03 Wed 04-Jan-17 17:14:51

I think you should go for it.

No personal experience of working in such settings but over the patient profile, I would be more interested in what your colleagues are like. In an unpredictable and varied work environment, I find that the support and camaraderie of the people you work with really makes or breaks how much you enjoy your job.

Can you arrange an informal visit before formally accepting the role?

FruitCider Wed 04-Jan-17 17:15:43

CoconutGal I'm a nurse in a B-Cat prison, I've only been there 4 months but if you have any qs inbox me!

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