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Your Experiences Were Your Tools by Oates et al. Essay

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The title of the evaluated article is “Your experiences were your tools. How the personal experience of mental health problems informs mental health nursing practice.” The paper discusses the nursing experience as an aspect of service delivery during recovery-oriented mental health practice. It identifies the influence and extent of professionals’ knowledge of mental problems on their clinical service. The article is well defined and has concisely summarized the main features of the study. It also contains a brief overview of the specific problem, context, objectives, methods, and results of the research (Oates, Drey, & Jones, 2017).

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Statement of the Problem

The introduction of the study clearly states and identifies the problem. It claims that expertise by experience being a highly valued part of service delivery is “unacknowledged within the mental health nursing literature”(Oates et al., 2017, p. 1). This problem is significant for the nursing profession since personal experiences improve service quality and motivate healing, but the staff was not approved to be open about their involvement. The study was aimed to analyze how nurses’ personal experience of mental health problems informs their nursing practice and work with patients. In this study, sequential mixed methods, specifical interviews with mental health nurses (MHN), were used. The further discussion moved towards the recovery and the effectiveness of modern mental health care.

Hypothesis/Research Question

The hypothesis states that personal experience of mental health problems influences on MHNs’ work in positive ways. Nevertheless, the study does not have a distinct research question, implying it in the introduction. The goals of the hypothesis are identified, and the hypothesis in this research coexists with current knowledge. The hypothesis aims to ask mental health nurses with personal experience how their knowledge affects their mental health nursing practice and analyze the results (Oates et al., 2017).

Literature Review

Many works are studying the impact of nurses’ personal experience of mental problems on their work. Some of them consider an MHN a wounded healer, an image of a helper with personal experiences giving powers to treat and motivate people (Zerubavel & Wright, 2012; Conchar & Repper, 2014). Telepak describes MHNs as impaired professionals who are perceived as nurses causing potential risk to patients and service users (2010). Studies of Kidd & Finlayson (2010), and Joyce, Hazelton, & McMillan (2007, 2009) talk about subjects’ experiences of having mental problems and work as nurses. They focus on the impact of such workers’ experience on their communication with colleagues, and perceptions of nursing practice.

Conceptual/theoretical framework

Key concepts are adequately identified in the study; they consist primarily of the importance of studying MHNs’ personal experience of mental health problems in their practice. Conceptual frameworks include behavioral, psychodynamic, and psychological theories learning the behavior and psychology of nurses. These frameworks assist in understanding the influence of personal experience on the effectiveness of modern mental health care (Oates et al., 2017).


This study used sequential mixed methods on the well-being and mental health of MHN’s in the UK and the COREQ criteria for qualitative research. The interviews obtained among 237 nurses were analyzed in 2015. This approach included data familiarization, sorting, summarizing, and analysis. The study protocol was approved by the local research ethics committee. The work was based on the principle of confidentiality and anonymity of its members (Oates et al., 2017).

Research Design

All members gave voluntary consent to participate in an online interview. The experimental design of the study was based on anonymity and minimized bias. However, 12 nurses were interviewed face-to-face, and 15 were interviewed via Skype. There were no incentives to take part in the research. Limitations regarding validity are expected with potential for bias due to not completely true answers (Oates et al., 2017).

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Population and Sample

Data were collected in the UK among 237 MHNs of two professional associations in 2013-2015. 22 of the 27 members are female. Their work experience as a nurse was from several months to 26 years. Some participants had more than one kind of mental health problem. The first part of the research was a survey of 237 MHNs in 2013. The second part was a purposive sample of 27 MHNs who mentioned subjective well-being and experience of mental problems (Oates et al., 2017).

Data collection, Measurement, and Procedures

The content of interviews was semi-structured and followed a topic guide piloted and reviewed by a Service User Representative Panel. The duration of the interviews was from 36 to 82 minutes. They were conducted online by the participants and in some cases, via Skype or face-to-face. Interviews were recorded and collected into one general group for further analysis (Oates et al., 2017).

Data Analysis

The interview transcripts were analyzed with the help of NVivo software. The validity of the coding was ensured through a comparative coding of the interview transcript samples. The active analysis approach made information structured and systematized according to patterns identified by the researchers. In this study, the intention to treat analysis was performed on all participants on whom data was obtained (Oates et al., 2017).


The study was aimed to learn the influence of the personal experience of nurses’ mental ill health on their mental health practice. It found out that personal experience impacted on nursing positively when MHNs used their experience to improve the relationship with patients and to motivate potential nurses. There were some ways of applying MHNs’ experiences in work. For example, “disclosure and crossing boundaries” and “use of self” meant operating with life experiences to understand, empathize with patients, and motivate to nursing practice through mental health history (Oates et al., 2017, p. 3). The article does not provide statistical results of the interviews but gives many examples and grouped data proving that the hypothesis is true.


This report was written concisely and offered an analysis of a critical issue in mental health nursing practice. This study has evidence to support the use of MHN’s personal experience of mental ill-health in nursing practice. The study is limited by the fact that it was conducted only in the UK. However, the obtained information allows MHNs to use their personal experience as an evidence-based approach in mental health nursing practice (Oates et al., 2017). Further research on this topic is possible outside the country. The use of gained knowledge can be applied in teaching nursing.


Conchar C. & Repper J. (2014) “Walking wounded or wounded healer?” Does personal experience of mental health problems help or hinder mental health practice? A review of the literature. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 18(1), 35–44

Joyce T., Hazelton M. & McMillan M. (2007) Nurses with mental illness: Their workplace experiences. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 16(6), 373–380.

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Kidd J.D. & Finlayson M.P. (2010) Mental illness in the nursing workplace: a collective autoethnography. Contemporary Nurse, 36(1-2), 21–33.

Oates, J., Drey, N., & Jones, J. (2017). “Your experiences were your tools”. How personal experience of mental health problems informs mental health nursing practice. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 24(7), 471-479.

Telepak L.C. (2010) Therapists as wounded healers: The impact of personal psychological struggles on work with clients. Miami, Ohio: Miami University.

Zerubavel N. & Wright M.O.D. (2012). The dilemma of the wounded healer. Psychotherapy, 49(4), 482–491.

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