Posted on: 3 September 2020

Alex Finnegan.jpg

Meet Alex Finnegan, he is a CAMHS Clinical Nurse Specialist in our Adolescent Community Treatment Service, also known as ACTS.

Alex decided at 22 years old he wanted to be a nurse. Before working in healthcare, Alex had a different vision to the reality of the role.

Alex said: “I probably had the ‘classic’ images in my head of kind, caring, pinafore-clad women holding hands, mopping brows and changing bed pans. It sounded all very nice, but not really the career I saw for myself.

Once I saw the work that nurses do, I realised my view was completely removed from the realities of modern nursing. Nurses today are highly-skilled, knowledgeable professionals, who balance numerous competing demands on a daily basis to provide complex, holistic interventions to patients (still with the care they are best known for, of course).

When I realised what modern nursing meant, I also realised it was the right profession for me.”

The start of Alex’s nursing career began as a Healthcare Assistant on an Adolescent PICU, he often describes his interest in nursing as something ‘he fell into’.

He said: “I needed a job, and it was the first one that came along! I think I realised quite quickly that I enjoy the work (despite the many, many challenging shifts) and also that nursing is a profession that provides an incredibly wide range of opportunities.”

He studied mental health nursing as a Postgraduate at King’s College London and after completing his nursing training, Alex returned to working with young people. 

Alex joined CNWL as a Clinical Team Leader to support with the opening of our Lavender Walk CAMHS Unit, during this time he also worked at our Collingham Unit.

He said: “Once Lavender Walk opened, I got to enjoy all the excitement of opening a new unit from scratch as part of a brand new team – which was a great experience - very exciting and quite the challenge.”

After one year at Lavender Walk, Alex discovered the opportunity to set up a new service – Adolescent Community Treatment Service (ACTS).

ACTS is a Tier 4 CAMHS service that provides care to high-risk young people in the community as an alternative to inpatient admission.

As a Clinical Nurse Specialist, Alex’s role involves working with young people on a daily basis. This includes care coordination and reviewing mental state and risk, as well as delivering multi-modal psychosocial interventions. Alex is also a DBT Therapist, meaning he provides both individual and group DBT to young people.

He said: “It was a somewhat daunting undertaking – managing high-risk young people who would otherwise be in hospital at home.

I think it’s challenging not to want to improve the lives of young people whose lives are painful. For me, that obviously means working with the young people on my caseload to try and make things better. I think that’s a big driver for everyone who works in healthcare – to reduce others’ suffering and improve their quality of life.”

This year is International Year of the Nurses, a profession Alex is proud to be a part of and takes wise words from Florence Nightingale’s ‘Notes on Nursing’.

He said: “Florence took the view that the ‘good’ nurse was not the one who provided the best care to their patient when they were present but instead was the nurse who ensured the care was consistently good - whether they were present or absent.

I think more than anything, nurses need to be authentic and human. We’re trained to provide holistic care in a way no other profession is, and I think the only way to really do that is to understand the people you care for as humans (complicated though humans tend to be). I think if you can try to be authentic in your interactions with those you care for, even when it’s challenging to do so, you’re really showing them the respect and care they deserve.

My current role is not necessarily the role I imagined I’d be in when I started training, or even a couple of years ago. That being said, I love my current role and it’s given me a huge amount of opportunity – like getting to train as a DBT therapist.

I’d encourage any nurse to be open to opportunities they might not think of as their ‘dream role’ – you might be surprised what roles you love!”