Why trust, autonomy and opportunity are so vital for a healthy work culture

We spoke to Jo Redding, Senior Sexual Health Nurse in Dudley, about her career journey, how her role at Brook has evolved, and why it’s so important to feel supported and valued at work.

For as long as I can remember, my mum has worked in sexual health so she has been a massive influence on my career. And now here I am with almost 15 years’ experience in the same field! I started my career working as children’s nurse, in a very busy Children’s hospital, but if I’m honest I struggled working with people who were really sick. So after a couple of years I saw an opportunity to move to GUM and I went for it, and I loved it. I then moved to Terrence Higgins Trust working in community HIV services, I left there to work in communicable infections for Public Health England, finally returning to the NHS working in sexual health education for 3 years. In 2020, as the pandemic hit, I was going to be redeployed and as a specialist sexual and reproductive health nurse. I didn’t feel this was a safe move for me to be forced to make, and an opportunity came to go back into the community working for Brook.

It was a change of role for me but I was looking for something different and a new challenge.

I feel super lucky that the team here is just really supportive, the biggest difference I’ve found since joining Brook is that every role is respected for what it contributes to the team.

Alongside the nurses we have a really tight network of support staff, healthcare assistants and client support workers. Without all of us working together there would be no clinical service.

I run a clinic every day, so a typical day for me would always be centred on seeing clients, be this face to face or phone clinic appointments. Around clinic there is admin, following up on safeguarding, and then training and development – which is my passion. I’m a faculty registered trainer (FRT) with the FSRH which means that I can support people going through a contraception qualification. I’ve had the opportunity to work in some of our other services around the country, this allows for sharing of experiences and learning from other teams. I think it’s great that we have flexibility for staff to be able to do that as it’s so valuable to see how other nurses work and other services run, and also work in a different service to further our knowledge.

One of the things that stood out to me when I started working at Brook was how my opinion and experience was taken seriously and utilised. I had a lot of experience out in the community and so I was asked ‘what should we be doing differently, and how could this work?’ This was all very new to me.

And on that note, something I’m really proud of is that I have led on a new training opportunity. Together with my manager, we devised a new training course to upskill non-clinical staff and build clinical capacity. We started this for our staff in Dudley and this has now been rolled out as an opportunity for everyone in the organisation which is amazing. On the first training session we had 8 people and the second one we had 15, now we have 30 people booked on the next session. It’s so exciting to be able to do something like this and to know that my ideas have been taken on board and are impacting colleagues across the country. This course has recently met the criteria for accreditation which is an amazing opportunity for the non-nurse staff as they are very rarely recognized in such a specialist sector of health.

I’m the kind of person who sees an opportunity and takes it, and in this case I saw a gap and I knew I could do something to fill it. I thought ‘I can fix that!’

In the NHS there just isn’t that kind of opportunity. It’s much more rigid and there are too many rules for me. Brook is really flexible and even though we’re a charity and we have limited resource, we still make things happen.

Coming to Brook has given me my autonomy back. When I went back to the NHS after THT I quickly remembered that I just don’t perform my best within their rigid structure.

To join Brook as a nurse you do have to be inventive, you do have to work autonomously, but with that comes so much freedom. In Dudley our client group is under 25s, and they don’t fit nicely into the Monday-Friday 9-5 structure so we work around that, and it also means that we have flexibility in our personal lives.

We have such a good work / life balance in our team and that is so important. If someone needs to take their child to the dentist, we can accommodate that. Previously I would have had to take annual leave or sick leave to be able to take appointments and that’s not a healthy work culture.

Joining in the pandemic was hard for many reasons. Everyone in the team has kids so we were all trying to juggle home schooling along with delivering confidential consultations at home.

I can’t stress enough how supportive the team is. As we started going into unknown territory with telephone consultations and not seeing anyone face-to-face, our team regularly checked in to make sure our mental health was ok and that we were coping.

Very quickly it became apparent to me that Brook was a caring and understanding place to work. We have such brilliant clients, who really appreciate the work we do and it’s always lovely to hear people coming to see us because their friend or sister has recommended us to them. And this only happens because our team is so supportive and works so well together, I couldn’t wish for better colleagues or a better work environment.

Visit our website to see current opportunities at Brook

[Illustration by Rachel Jardine for Brook]

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