Saturday, 10 October 2015

The beat of Cajun Drums drown out the sounds of Richard Clayderman at #ACMHN2015

It was quiet when I flew back into Singapore last night. Compared to the previous few days and nights things were a little slower but it was back to listening to Richard Clayderman type irritating piano music. If you don't believe me, about the irritation level, just listen to this. It is guaranteed to send you running for ear plugs after you hear the first few bars. I had flown back from Brisbane, a city with music on every corner, bar and restaurant. There was music for every mood and taste, (even I guess irritating piano music if that what floats your boat) and I had been spoilt for choice. I had been there for the 41st International Mental Health Nursing Conference. 

Now you might ask me, why go 20500 miles, to attend a mental health nursing conference. It would be a fair question, and s my sore legs will attest, it is a long way to travel. The answer for me is that there is simply nothing that is comparable in the UK. The joint Mental Health Nurse Academics UK and RCN held once a year for the last 21 years is a poor relation. Paradoxically, the latter was held this year in Manchester! There are a couple of mental health nursing conferences in Europe, but they tend to be on at the same time as the Australian one. No the ACMHN conference is the best in the world if you want to network, present your research and meet other like minded people. I also got to have a drink last night in the Raffles Long Bar, something I failed to do last weekend. 

The last time I had been in Brisbane, was in Oct 2007, a couple of weeks after my younger brother Christopher had died. It was the last time I had seen my sister Sarah in person as well. We had planted an olive tree in his memory, a tree still going strong. Ever since that time, I hadn't been able to face the long journey to Australia and in particular to the conference that had such painful memory associations. That said,I had made the journey to Australia in 2011 after being head hunted for a job at the University of South Wales. Although the Business Class ticket made the journey more bearable, and I was offered the job, it wasn't a move I wanted to make.

However, all these years on it felt right to accept the invitation to present at this year’s conference. The conference was held in the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre, which is also home to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. There was music, colour and activity everywhere. I did like the advertising for a forthcoming production of Indiana Jones and his full orchestra. I had thoughts of Indiana fighting his way through the forest wondering where his string section had got to.

The conference theme was - Mental Health Nurses; shifting culture, leading change. In some ways it was not that different to the theme back in 2007- Mental Health Nursing: making waves. Unlike in the UK, where mental health nursing is a recognised field of practice, like children and young people’s nursing, in Australia it is an area of practice that nurses go into once they have graduated from a generic education and training programme. 

So there was much discussion over the sense of a lost professional identity; a loss of power and feelings of being a very subservient second best to those nurses working in physical care services. However, there were also many papers presented on innovative approaches to education, research and practice. Music and art featured widely. There was everything from Cajun Drum Therapy in a Secure Unit to Therapeutic Photography, and there was also much emphasis on looking after the physical health of people with a mental health problem, with plenty of ideas to try out in the School! It was a great conference and whilst thankfully, Richard Clayderman didn't appear in any of the papers presented, the journey was a worthwhile one and I have much to bring back for consideration in our development of the new C16 pre-registraion nurse programme.