International Women’s Day – Profiling SIG’s Women – Muriel Gutu

In honour of International Women’s Day, we are this week running a series on the women of SIG.  We hope that you will enjoy these profiles and be inspired by them. Today’s feature is of our Clinical Lead, Muriel Gutu.

Muriel

What do you do when you have a high-stress job that requires integrity, accuracy, self-awareness, continuous professional development, people management skills, specialist knowledge, resilience, and diplomacy? Well, you ensure that the job does not become all-consuming or your entire focus, and you ensure that you balance the conflicting parts of your life. This is what our clinical lead Muriel Gutu does with dignity and grace.

Muriel is soft-spoken, charming, and direct. She laughs easily, even at herself. But there is an unmistakable core of steel running through her, forged through years of working in substance misuse and her Christian faith.

Muriel’s role has an organisation-wide remit, but her focus is on the CQC registered services

Muriel works with the clinical and medical teams and liaises with them on referrals. She is also responsible for clinical governance across the group, drafting, reviewing, and updating policies. To ensure the care we deliver is safe and within NICE guidelines, Muriel handles all clinical issues. She manages the process around controlled drugs and medication, carrying out regular audits to ensure accountability. She reviews incident reports, highlights lessons learned and ensures their dissemination. Muriel also provides in-house training and supervision to nurses and leads in their recruitment.

Career and Challenges faced

Muriel’s nursing career started many years ago. She initially worked in acute mental health and as a community psychiatric nurse, then focused on substance misuse. She worked in community settings with drug and alcohol teams within the NHS, working as a locum and in prisons.

Muriel qualified as a nurse prescriber in 2008, which entails prescribing medication and carrying out clinical diagnostics in substance misuse. The course is an intense one, and Muriel did it alongside working full-time with young children. She was discouraged by others due to the intensity of the course and the commitment needed. Many people are discouraged from pursuing it or shy away from the responsibility. Sometimes nurses are qualified as prescribers but don’t prescribe. Muriel credits her stubborn nature for seeing it through and qualifying. She worked as a nurse prescriber in different settings within the community and held various managerial posts.

Muriel faced various challenges working as a nurse prescriber as a woman of colour. She sensed resistance from some non-prescribers and clients who sometimes did not understand how she could prescribe their medication. Because they are used to women as nurses and doctors doing the prescribing. This reflects the views held by some of society today. She also faced resistance from some medics, but thankfully, there is now a general understanding that doctors and prescribers can complement each other. Sometimes, Muriel worked with and supported Locum doctors who had limited substance misuse experience.

Muriel overcame her challenges by showing confidence and demonstrating competence. She escalated anything that felt like a racial attack and quickly moved on, determined that these incidents would not define her or lower her self-esteem. Muriel eventually left the NHS out of frustration after being overlooked for a promotion.

Muriel prescribed mainly in the third sector and leant on the prescribers’ forum for support and regular updates on new medications and practices. Prescribers need to be supervised and mentored by a doctor and insured against malpractice, offering some reassurance.

Muriel joined Brook Drive as a Locum Nurse Team Leader in 2019. Prescribing was not part of the role as this wasn’t part of the Brook Drive set-up. After one year, when the post became available, she was appointed Clinical Lead in recognition of the to work she had done since joining SIG.

Muriel found working at Brook Drive a fantastic experience as she was part of a team. Her work for the group is mainly positive, although it was initially isolating as she did not feel part of the established Heads of Service group. That has changed, and she is utilising her skills much more, liaising with services on the unifying aspects of medication management and mental health and interacting with Heads of Service working for the wellbeing of Service Users.

Muriel thinks that a health strategy for the organisation is needed. She is working towards creating enhanced policies and processes in general health, diabetes, obesity management and smoking.

Advice

Muriel was recently invited to talk to new nurses recruited from overseas. The advice she gave included:

  • Start your career with an open mind and a willingness to learn
  • Be assertive but don’t be rude
  • Open yourself to opportunities
  • Be likeable – don’t antagonize others
  • Speak up but speak up politely
  • Always strive for excellence
  • Do not go to work and do the bare minimum; that won’t get you anywhere
  • Put the clients/patients at the centre of your work

This advice can be applied to any career path.

Muriel is passionate about helping people! She is a Christian, taking her faith seriously and doing a lot for her church. She offered mental health workshops during the pandemic and periodically provided mental health support to groups in Zimbabwe, her home country. She enjoys spending time with her family and gardening, which is her destresser. She starts her day with prayer and reading her bible and likes listening to music, especially reggae. She is interested in general health and wellbeing and healthy eating. Something she is passionate about and for which her family and friends have nicknamed her ‘Auntie Antioxidant.’

Muriel Gutu – Wife, Mother, Aunt, Nurse and Woman of God.

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