Say Hello to Avondale

Published: 17 February 2020

Avondale is a 14-bed mixed sex clinical decisions unit. It provides assessment, care planning and treatment to people presenting in a mental health crisis. The team consists of nurses, health care assistants, social worker, pharmacy technician, activity workers, consultant psychiatrist, and medical staff. They also have access to occupational therapists and psychology staff. Avondale is part of the unplanned care pathway, working collaboratively with the mental health response service and home based treatment teams.

The unit is currently in a process of development, working with a research nurse through a phase of transformation, which involves action research and change methodologies. Avondale also works as part of a national collaborative, with the Royal College of psychiatrists, as well as taking part in local quality improvement initiates. 

Opportunities to take part in research, change and develop the unit are continually emerging, as well as the chance to boost the clinical side of the team. Avondale encourage all staff to seek professional development, and due to the collaborative working relationship within the mental health response service pathway, opportunities can be supported for individuals to experience working across the whole service. 

The team particularly welcome creative thinking and believe in a team-approach towards change, offering a supportive environment to work, with a focus on the staff wellbeing.

This mind set has been a successful method when it comes to our Avondale team. We are so proud of the hard work and outcomes our staff delivers, week by week, so much so that we’d like to introduce you to a couple of members of the team who make all of this possible. 

Meet Paul Mitchell

Can you tell me about your background before you worked at Avondale?

Yes, I started at De La Pole Hospital in 1985, after getting made redundant from a job. I used to work on building sites, and at the time my mum was working as a Nurse at De La Pole, so she encouraged me to apply.

It was 12th December 1985 when I had my induction and then they put me straight onto a ward. I felt quite nervous, thinking everyone was looking at me, and I really felt like it was the worst day of my life. I was quite immature, I didn’t understand or I wasn’t aware of mental health problems and it intimidated me quite a bit.

How old were you then?

I had just turned 20, so I was quite young getting into it.

On my first day, I thought ‘I’m glad I’ve got that over and done with.’ But then I thought well, first days are always the worst, you have to get used to everybody, so I decided to stick it out.

The next day, they put me on an elderly ward and I thought it was interesting, it kept me busy as there were a lot of personal care and patient needs to attend to. Throughout the morning, they would sit in a circle and have cups of teas and have a smoke. But eventually, this got me thinking ‘there must be more to life than this every day’.

After a few conversations, I passed my licence for the ward transport. I used to take them to the library once a week which had a theatre underneath. The patients would get to see things like the old Agatha Christie films. I’d also take them to a Church on Cottingham Road so they could go dancing and things like that. It was all about improving their quality of life.

What was the role called that you started as?

Temporary Nursing Assistant.

I was there for nearly a year doing that role, and then I met my wife and we started courting. We decided to go for a mortgage, but I quickly realised I couldn’t get one because I was only temporary, so I decided to go and be a cleaner as well.

One day, I was cleaning on the ward when I saw lots of people walking into the building for interviews. I said I wish I knew about that, as I would’ve joined them.

A little later in the day, a member of staff told me to go get a shave because he had gotten me an interview. It was at 11:00 and he told me where I needed to go…I didn’t even have time to change my work overalls!

I started on 9th September 1997 as a full time Healthcare Assistant and I’ve worked at Avondale ever since.

So what does Avondale do exactly?

Avondale is an acute assessment unit, where we accept patients informally and patients who have been assessed and detained on the section of the mental health act. They come into our unit at time of crisis for a period of assessment, help, support and medication reviews.

Patients are then seen by the consultant, nursing and multi-disciplinary teams, who then discuss plans, treatment options and receive patient’s views within the meeting. We either then discharges patients with or transfer patients to our treatment units, for a further plan of care.

What’s a typical day like for you at Avondale?

It’s so varied. It’s an unpredictable environment we work in, due to the variety of patients with different mental health problems. You can be busy with admissions, discharges, engagement, and general daily running of the ward environment.

As a healthcare assistant, we are the first point of contact on the ward as we welcome people onto the ward and orientate them around the unit; part of our assessments is to carry out physical health monitoring and Health improvement charts. We check patient general health so we can highlight and identify problems that may arise and solutions should they need them. It’s mostly getting the patient settled into their new environment and building a therapeutic rapport.

But then, on other days, it might be that individuals become increasingly distressed, therefore adapting our skills and managing time effectively, ensuring safe and effective care of patients and staff.

What do you find most rewarding about this job?

I’ve been here so long, working part of a dedicating nursing team, I enjoy seeing successful stories of people well known to our service. I get to see their initial presentation at first point of crisis, how they respond to assessment. Building a therapeutic rapport and gaining trust with each patient enabling to help support them into discharge, home treatment or transferring for further treatment.


Meet Beverley Deters

Can you tell me a bit about your background before Avondale?

I have worked at Avondale for less than two years at the moment, before this I worked as one of the Hull Health Trainers for over 12 years!

Throughout this time, I spent nearly 2 years working in HMP Hull and also spent time with the Gypsy and Traveller Community. We were the bridge between the community and all the other services available, focusing on the Health and Wellbeing of the clients and also things like Weight Management (Bite Size). 

We then turned over to a company called ABL Health in 2015, and delivered Children (FAB) and Adults (Enable) Tier 2 weight management programmes for 3 years, during which I gained my Level 2 Gym Instructor Qualification, as this involved nutrition talks and physical activity.

What made you apply for the role at Avondale?

Unfortunately, in June 2018, Public Health pulled the funding for the project I was working on and I was made redundant. I knew I wanted to keep working within the NHS, and I’ve often thought about working as a HCA or a Nurse in the future. However, I did not have the relevant qualifications to make that leap.

At the time, it came to my attention that there were quite some posts available in Mental Health. As I have experience with friends and family members who struggle with this, I was quickly interested in exploring the topic and how I might perhaps pursue a career in this direction.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Knowing I have made a difference to a patient’s life. Whether it’s simply playing a game or having a chat with them, or assisting them with something they find difficult. It’s really rewarding. My favourite thing is seeing someone smile.

What is a typical day like for you at Avondale? 

Every day is different at Avondale, some more challenging than others. It all depends on the patients we have in, but knowing we have a great team and support really helps.

How would you describe working at Avondale compare to your previous roles?

My last role was challenging, but nowhere near as challenging as this one can be. There’s more stress and responsibility, but I would not have it any other way. It’s so rewarding.

What is your relationship like with the patients and services users?

I’m quite down to earth, I do like to have a laugh and get on with most of the patients. Not all of them take to you, and some have other members of staff they prefer or have built a rapport with over the years. I just always keep it professional whilst also making sure their stay is pleasant and the best it can be

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