Kate Sheehan, a Contraception and Sexual Health Nurse at our all age service in Southend, tells us what it was like to join Brook in June 2021 during the pandemic and after 27 years working for the NHS.
I started my career in the blood transfusion service, and then was in the ambulance service for many years before I went to uni in my 20s and did my nursing diploma. It was there that I qualified in contraception. I then went on to work in school nursing for a very, very long time and then on to Child Protection and worked for a bit in the Prison Service and A&E! So I have a very varied career history but I’ve always dipped in and out of contraception.
Before I started my role at Brook I was a bit nervous because I was quite rusty! But I knew I had all the skills and experience, and I was really interested in delivering contraception and sexual health together so I looked at this role as a brilliant opportunity for training.
I joined Brook as a CASH NIT (Contraception and Sexual Health Nurse in Training) so now, almost a year later, I have completed my contraception refresher training, I’m trained in implants now and I’m just finishing off my sexual health training alongside practicing. It’s been really good!
Even though I don’t have any direct sexual health background, for me it’s been such a good opportunity to upskill. Also I think it’s just so brilliant that we offer both contraception and sexual health under one roof, as they go hand in hand.
Southend has been running since 2021 so it’s a fledgling service. We’re still finding our feet and overcoming some challenges, but to be learning so much and to feel like I’m part of a really progressive service, for me it’s perfect.
It was quite chaotic joining and mobilising a new service in the middle of the pandemic but it’s just so nice to come into an organisation where it’s very staff focused and where there is a lot of investment in professional development and I didn’t get that as much in the NHS. I also feel like there is scope for personal development at Brook. I feel like all my ideas are taken on board and I’m valued.
If I’m being honest, my favourite thing about working at Brook is coming in and feeling like an individual rather than a number in a clinical team or a name on a rota. Coming in during the pandemic it was really obvious that Brook genuinely cared about the wellbeing of its workforce.
I’ve also noticed so much more flexibility than the NHS which is really important. As a workforce of predominantly women it’s important to know that you have some flexibility with childcare or any other issues that arise. You’re going to get loyal staff if you’re treated decently and fairly, and with kindness. I think Brook is a good organisation for being kind.
One of our big successes since mobilising the Southend service has been managing the backlog of people who were on massive waiting lists for coils. So many services closed during the pandemic and GPs weren’t able to support people with LARC so being able to step in and get people seen quickly has been amazing.
As well as the training opportunities and my colleagues, one of the things I love about my role is how dynamic and varied it is. Sexual health is so broad and you’re constantly learning and being challenged. Yes, there is paperwork and admin but you’re doing lots of hands on clinical work – like lab work and microscopy. You’re always applying your safeguarding knowledge and you have to be a really clear communicator.
One of biggest differences I noticed when moving to Brook from the NHS, is the amount of trust and freedom I get. I feel like I’m very autonomous, and after working for so long in the NHS I think it’s easy to become a bit institutionalised. At Brook I have my clinic list for the day but it’s my list and I manage it, whereas in the hospital there was lots of checking in to see if you had done things. I like that I am left to my own devices but I know the support is there if I need it.
If you’re thinking about a change in career, or looking for your next challenge, I would really recommend Brook. I really love being on the frontline and working directly with people in the community.
Me and my colleagues honestly go home at the end of the day feeling like we’ve met really nice people, and our patients are so grateful for the support we’ve offered them. I get a lot of job satisfaction, I really do. And for that I feel very lucky.
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