Lynsey Brown, Staff Nurse at Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, won the Rising Star award at the 2013 Nursing Times Awards. We spoke to Lynsey who qualified as a nurse in 2010, to find out more about why she was nominated and the great work she has done at her Trust.
How did it feel to win the Rising Star award?
It was amazing; there were some really good candidates doing some amazing work and I was really thrilled to hear I had been successful. My line manager, Julia Anderson, who is the Manager of Forensic Support at Calderstones nominated me, and it was really unexpected. It’s fantastic that such an award recognises recently qualified nurses.
Three of my colleagues and I went to the award ceremony at Grosvenor House Hotel, London, as the Trust had also been shortlisted in the Learning Disability Nursing category;it was a great experience to attend the ceremony and celebrate with them.
You also got to meet Prince Charles, didn’t you?
Yes, that was a fantastic experience. Before the awards took place I attended a lunchtime reception at Clarence House with my colleague Lizzie Kidd, this was hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales.
I felt genuine warmth from him and the team at Clarence House and they made all of us feel very welcome. He asked why I had been shortlisted in the Rising Star category and I relayed to him the work we had been doing and how my recognition was for raising this to a national level and designing some of the tools that the team used.
Can you tell us about what you were nominated for and your work at the Trust?
The project I was nominated for was a six month pilot across three prisons in the North West of England. Calderstones had successfully achieved funding to hold clinics with their aim being to identify and support prisoners with learning disabilities. My colleagues in the forensic support service and I have been able to introduce new ways to safely support those who have been identified and reduce health inequalities. The team also designed and implemented our own package of training specific to the prison environment, which was influential in enlightening and empowering the prison staff to communicate with and support those with learning disabilities. Feedback from those attending training was that they were seeing fewer incidents of the prisoners requiring restraint, isolation and engaging in self-harm. The principles of the 6Cs underpinned the work that we did and it was pleasing to see that we were able to influence officers outside the nursing profession to adopt these same principles.
Since the completion of the pilot the team has continued this work within some of the prisons and are looking at ways in which the work can be expanded. As a forensic learning disability service the nurses within the Trust hold unique skills and these have been influential in making such positive change in such a short period of time. Presentations at national and local conferences have helped raise awareness of the challenges and inequalities that individuals with learning disabilities face and the team are currently applying for funding to undertake research that will develop this.
Are there any particular challenges to your job?
I work with vulnerable adults who are often stigmatised and socially isolated, so one of the main challenges for me is to reduce stigma and improve awareness. The prison establishments are difficult environments to work within and the officers face daily challenges on how they minimise risk. Their priority is to be custodial therefore the biggest challenge was showing strength in leadership skills and confidence in the team’s ability to provide interventions that would continue to minimise risk but also provide the care and support that individuals with learning disabilities require to serve their sentences safely and fairly.
What made you want to work with people with learning disabilities, and offenders in particular?
I joined the Trust as a support worker and in this position I was able to see how rewarding it can be to make change for the better. Individuals with learning disabilities are one of the most vulnerable and stigmatised groups in society and offenders with learning disabilities have very often fallen into crime either because of the social disadvantages they face or communication problems. Therefore there is much work that can be done to both improve lives and reduce reoffending. I was lucky to be seconded by the Trust to undertake my three year’s training; this along with my work as a support worker developed both my interest and passion for this specific field of nursing.
How important is it that recently qualified nurses are recognised through awards such as this?
I think it is really important for nurses to know that people do acknowledge the important work we do. Being newly qualified is quite a daunting time in your career but it can also be your most influential. From your first day on the ward your leadership, personal skills and ability have an impact on those you support and work with and I think the Rising Star award is an amazing way of acknowledging that. As a newly trained nurse you do have fresh ideas to bring to the teams you work with and this award shows that you should not be afraid to be confident and passionate in sharing them.
How does having won this award make you feel about your future in the nursing profession?
This award has given me confidence in the skills I hold and has shown me that when you are passionate about something you can enthuse others to listen, take note and want to contribute to change.
I am proud to be given the opportunity to represent and highlight, not only the specialist skills of the nurses here at Calderstones, but also Learning Disability Nurses as a profession. The Trust put a great deal of faith in me through the secondment to do my training and to take part in the project. I am incredibly grateful to my line manager who nominated me for this award, and to those I have worked with, both on the ward and within the pilot, who have acted as excellent role models and taken time to share their skills and experience.
The award has given me a platform to share the work the Trust has done. I am presenting at the 2014 Florence Nightingale Foundation Conference and have previously presented at the National Positive Conference, which is aimed at learning disability professionals. I will soon be submitting articles on the pilot project to relevant journals, which hopefully will further raise awareness and work towards reducing inequalities and reduce re-offending.
This year NHS Professionals co-sponsored the Nursing Times’ Rising Star Award, along with The Florence Nightingale Foundation and 6Cs Live!