Exploring the experiences of trainee mental health workers: moving from theory to practice

Publication Date14 May 2018
Date14 May 2018
AuthorCharlotte Kirton,Nicky Lambert,Helen Matheson,Sandra Connell
SubjectHealth & social care,Mental health,Mental health education
Exploring the experiences of trainee
mental health workers: moving from
theory to practice
Charlotte Kirton, Nicky Lambert, Helen Matheson and Sandra Connell
Purpose The Trainee Mental Health Worker (TMHW) Programme is an initiative developed collaboratively
between Middlesex University and local NHS Mental Health Trusts in response to national workforce
requirements for flexible clinical personnel. The purpose of this paper is to explore the experience of this new
category of mental health workers and to address the feedback given by previous cohorts of TMHWs.
Design/methodology/approach This qualitative study comprised of three focus groups who met over
their year-long training. In total, 20 participants self-selected from a population of 60 TMHWs, and their
expectations of the TMHW role prior to starting the programme and following each of two practice
placements were explored.
Findings The thematic analysis identified five domains: identity, career strategy, functioning in the system,
status and responsibility; the TMHWs demonstrated notable changes in their attitude and behaviour as they
progressed. The findings demonstrate the challenges of integrating a new type of workforce into the rigid
systems of the health care service.
Research limitations/implications Focus groups by their nature are not always representative, and this
programme is limited in its number of students.
Practical implications This study has led to a greater understanding of the experiences of trainees across
a variety of clinical settings.
Social implications The results from this study will assist employing trusts in recruitment and retention by
helping them to understand this phenomenon and the role itself.
Originality/value This studys value lies in the insight it offers into the experience of a new kind of worker
moving from novice status to practitioner outside the constraint of a professional registration.
Keywords Practice education, Mental health, Trainee
Paper type Research paper
The Trainee Mental Health Worker (TMHW) Programme is an initiative developed collaboratively
between a London University and two local NHS Mental Health Trusts. The TMHW is one of a
number of new roles that have been developed in response to national workforce requirements
for flexible, clinical personnel, skilled in working across diverse practice settings and with the
ability to provide health services for the future (Health Education England, 2015).
The TMHW role was introduced in response to the continuedpressures on the NHS ranging from
economic constraint, an ageing population and fewer professionally qualified staff. This is a
particularissue in stigmatised areas such as mentalhealth where the nature of servicesis changing
and there is an expectation that budgets andresponsibilities are shared withsocial care providers
to allow a shift towards preventive care and proactivecomplex case management. NHS England
(2014) highlights theimportance of a comprehensive workforce strategy with an evaluationof the
impact of differentstaff groups across the systemin order to address these issues in a plannedand
sustainable way.However, The Health Foundation (2017) notesa disconnection between funding
Received 19 December 2016
Revised 12 April 2017
30 August 2017
Accepted 24 November 2017
Charlotte Kirton is a Senior
Lecturer at the Department of
Mental Health & Learning
Disabilities, Faculty of Health
and Social Care, London South
Bank University, London, UK.
Nicky Lambert is the Director of
Teaching and Learning,
Helen Matheson and
Sandra Connell are both Senior
Lecturers, all at the Department
of Mental Health, Social Work
and Integrative Medicine,
Middlesex University,
London, UK.
DOI 10.1108/JMHTEP-12-2016-0061 VOL. 13 NO. 3 2018, pp. 137-147, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1755-6228

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