Dr Mary Kennedy, Lead for Service User Engagement


I’m Mary Kennedy, a mental health lecturer in the School of Health and Social Care and currently the Lead for Service User Engagement. Most of my career was in the NHS, with nearly 40 years’ clinical experience in various nursing roles. I mainly worked in mental health services with people and families experiencing a range of mental health conditions.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognise the value of storytelling in healthcare. This has shaped my career and my belief that by sharing our stories, we connect and build relationships and gain a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of the people we work with. I’m therefore delighted to now be leading on Service User Engagement in the School.

I’ve always had a real passion for developing services and supporting innovation within clinical practice. One of my most rewarding was collaborating on developing an age-inclusive dementia service and getting funding for a joint research project with the local NHS Trust and the University of Essex.

Since joining the University, my focus has been developing and delivering dementia education and end of life care. As well as teaching on both these topics, I’ve collaborated with colleagues across the University to support national campaigns, raise awareness and encourage people to talk more openly about dementia, death and dying. This has enabled me to remain connected to local networks and continue supporting projects designed to improve services and influence practice.

My areas of interest are wide and varied. I have a specific interest in the role of creative arts in education, including storytelling and the delivery of compassionate care within organisational life. The latter leading me to train at the ‘Point of Care Foundation’ as a Schwartz Round facilitator. I now work alongside colleagues delivering Rounds within the School.

With compassion and self-compassion in mind, along with colleagues in the School, we collaborated on the publication of ‘Coping and Thriving in Nursing: An Essential Guide’ (2018). This practice-focused book explores the many challenges faced in healthcare today, providing guidance on health and emotional wellbeing, ways of coping and being resilient in an ever-changing environment.