The Healthchecks Nurses, from West Berkshire and Bracknell Forest Councils, win the Bank Nurses Award at the 2016 Nurse Awards organised by the Royal College of Nursing Journal, the Nursing Standard.
We spoke to Amanda Walsh to find out about her role with the Healthcheck Nurses and what they do for their community.
How did you feel about winning the award?
On the night of the awards, my colleague and I were volunteering at a church. We heard we had won when we were on our way home and we were just screaming. One of my colleagues went to pick it up and we’re going to take turns to have it. It was amazing to hear that we had won, I was heartened.
Tell me a bit about your team
We are the cardiovascular health check nurses, and we’ve been operating since 2010. We used to work for the Primary Care Trust, but now work for the local authority. We all have different backgrounds, and draw on each other’s experiences. There are three of us, but we will soon be two once Chris retires from nursing – so we will need some more members!
How and when did you get into nursing?
I’ve been a nurse since I was 22, and have worked in a variety of roles, including
midwifery, community nursing, and occupational health. My colleague Zara has been nursing for 15 years and has a PHD in plant science, and my colleague Chris is about to retire from a long and varied background in nursing, including child protection.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I live in Reading, which is quite an urban area with lots of cars. Every month, I help to organise for some of the roads to be closed off to cars so children can play. It’s amazing to see them play, and I love doing it. Next month we’ve got the a basketball team coming to show the children how to play basketball, I’m so excited about it.
I also help with a community garden that has just been revamped. One of the things we’ve been thinking about doing is offering health checks to some of the guys that came to help us out.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Meeting people, the variety, feeling like you are making a difference and knowing what you are doing is research based. It’s empowering as a nurse to know that your sign posting and advice has been researched and you know you can help them. We know we can help people to reduce their risk of a heart attack or stroke.
We don’t just want to be seeing well people who are already motivated to be healthy. We want to be going to the places where people are less likely to visit the doctor. One of the most rewarding parts of our job is that you know when you’ve met those people. You know you have made that difference and it’s amazing. I absolutely love the NHS Healthchecks service I think it’s a brilliant idea. We’re lucky that we are working with people who listen to our feedback.
Are there any challenges to your work?
Sometimes we have to manage people’s expectations. Occasionally we see people who want to see you about lots of different things. It’s about working within your role and sign posting them to the right people.
What does your average day look like?
At the moment I’m at a GP surgery, so the average day for me is quite standard. I’ll go into the surgery, set up my equipment and take a look at how many people are coming in to see me, which varies day to day. During the consultation, I let them do the speaking most of the time. I think if they speak themselves about their health, they are more likely to take action. If I’ve got time afterwards, I’ll use it to put up health promotion materials around the surgery
We also spend time doing community outreach, our next one will be in a local church. Normally at these outreaches, people are booked in to see us but often people just drop in. They’re often targeted at areas of deprivation so we can see the people who don’t usually go to the doctor.
Health checks are golden opportunities to improve health. You can get the biometrics done at the same time as chatting to people about the things that will damage their health. For some, health checks can be life changing.