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

Charlotte Kirton (Department of Mental Health & Learning Disabilities, Faculty of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, London, UK)
Nicky Lambert (Department of Mental Health, Social Work and Integrative Medicine, Middlesex University, London, UK)
Helen Matheson (Department of Mental Health, Social Work and Integrative Medicine, Middlesex University, London, UK)
Sandra Connell (Department of Mental Health, Social Work and Integrative Medicine, Middlesex University, London, UK)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Publication date: 14 May 2018

Abstract

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 study’s 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

Citation

Kirton, C., Lambert, N., Matheson, H. and Connell, S. (2018), "Exploring the experiences of trainee mental health workers: moving from theory to practice", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 137-147. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMHTEP-12-2016-0061

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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