Welcome. My name is Nathan Illman (he/his), founder of Nurse Wellbeing Mission (NWM). Allow me to take you on a journey of my story and the development of this much needed service.
I studied for my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at King’s College London in 2012 after already achieving both an MSc and PhD in psychology from the University of Leeds.
During my training and initial subsequent jobs, I worked with nurses in community psychiatric settings and in-patient brain injury units.
I was always awe-struck at what hard work nurses had to do. I quickly appreciated the necessity of their role in the teams I worked.
In any new role, I would make it my aim to spend time with the nurses and try to learn from them in whatever way I could. I admired the camaraderie, compassion and clinical skill involved in the nursing profession.
As I got to know nurses better, I also learned how little emotional and psychological support there was for them.
I watched my nursing colleagues work longer hours than me, receive abuse and deal with challenging behaviour, and often be treated as inferior or less important. This was due to the medical culture and hierarchy. It seemed unfair to me.
Whilst my role was often challenging at times too, Clinical Psychology as a profession has some extremely good support systems built into standard practice, such as regular clinical supervision.
Moreover, as a psychologist you can put into practice all the tools you learn about and teach your clients. It felt strange to me that nurses were not provided such support given the equally emotionally demanding role they had.
Fortunately, my role allowed me to establish some more formal support for nurses in two jobs I worked. I found it incredibly rewarding to provide nurses with much needed space to reflect and process aspects of their work, as well as learn new skills to manage their emotional reactions.
Breaking away to help healthcare workers
Fast forward to 2018, when I moved to Melbourne, Australia with my wife. I was motivated to eventually start my own business, though at this point I wasn’t exactly clear what that would look like.
I took a job working in intellectual disability services. In my spare time I fleshed out how I would eventually break away and do what I really cared about – supporting other healthcare staff.
Over time, I slowly began developing my own independent practice providing support to both nurses and doctors. My group programs were taking off with great feedback from nurses, which affirmed the route I wanted to take.
Personal experiences of nursing
Sadly, my dad became very unwell back home in the UK in the summer of 2021, meaning my wife, newborn son and I had to leave Australia very suddenly.
The subsequent months spent back home supporting my dad solidified my desire to support nurses. I witnessed the great work of nurses whilst Dad spent three months in ICU.
I visited him multiple times each week and spent time observing and talking to the incredible nursing staff who took care of him.
During this time, I witnessed some horrendous events with my dad – frequent delirium, changes in personality and behaviour, and severe disability caused by his illness and infections.
Whilst these were very troubling for us as a family, we were only there for a few hours at a time. I respected and was grateful to the ICU nurses who experienced this day-in-day out. They still showed up to work with a smile and dedication to relieve dad’s suffering.
Sadly, he didn’t make it, but the experience his nurses (and medical staff) provided made this incredibly sad period of time more bearable.
The beginning of Nurse Wellbeing Mission
Whereas I previously had one toe dipped into my project to support nurses, during this time I decided to found Nurse Wellbeing Mission. I became committed to go on a mission to support nurses far and wide.
My research and ongoing discussions with nurses leave me to believe that this kind of work and support system is essential.
I believe all nurses deserve access to regular emotional and psychological support to aid them in their roles.
Simply put, if nurses are better trained and supported psychologically, then society as a whole benefits.
If you’re a nurse and want to join me on this mission, then you can sign-up below to our mailing list at the bottom of the page.