Meet Helen: Advanced Nurse Practitioner

Helen, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP), won the “Nurse of the Year” award in 2020 for her work introducing ANP clinics in the North West prisons estate. She was the first Spectrum nurse to access ANP training ‘on the job’ and now works across our North West Prisons estate.

How did it feel to win the “Florence Nightingale – Nurse of the Year” Award?

Amazing! I had no idea that I would win. I was watching the live ceremony from home (due to COVID-19) and as the names were read out, my husband turned to me and said, “It could be you.” I said, “It could be anyone.” Offender health probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when people think of nursing, so to even get to the final was a huge surprise. Winning this award has been a fabulous motivator for the staff I work with – offender health has been recognised.

What made you want to become a nurse? What do you like about prison nursing?

My Mum was a nurse and when I was a child and I remember hearing stories about her career. I realised that’s what I also wanted to do and never wavered in this.

Before working in a prison environment, I worked in the hospital for 16 years. I requested to look around the prison as a possible career move but didn’t have a clue what to expect.  I guess I had the preconceptions that others might have, I wondered if it would be hostile or if it would have adequate resources. As I walked around, something just ‘clicked’ for me and I thought “this is it, this is the job for me” – I just knew what I wanted to do. I really enjoy my job, we have some amazing patients and the nursing team are able to build up a very good, professional rapport with many of them. So much of nursing is about understanding relationships and understanding people – what their experiences have been, the battles they may be fighting.

Why did you choose to become an Advanced Nurse Practitioner?

I was already a Nurse Prescriber and it felt like the next logical step – I could see how becoming an ANP would be a way to provide timely access and care for patients and help reduce the waiting list to see the doctor. Being an ANP also gives me a bit more time to care for complex patients and to focus on health education, which is a really important part of protecting long-term health.

What would you say to someone who wanted to be a nurse?

I think I would say that it is a very diverse career with lots of opportunities. It is hard work but there are huge emotional rewards helping patients who are often at their most vulnerable. Being a nurse you see all aspects of life and death and every day brings new challenges.