Award winners champion sexual health and rehabilitation of mental health service users
Past winners of the Mental Health Nursing category of the RCNi Nurse Awards reflect on their career-changing experiences
- Our past winners highlight how the awards have enhanced their profiles and practice
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Mental health nurses who have received RCNi Nurse Awards have highlighted the life-changing effect it has had on their projects, profiles and practice.
The 2019 winner of the Mental Health Nursing category was Rachel Luby. Her project, called Let’s Talk About Sex, improved the sexual health of patients on her forensic ward by giving patients and staff greater confidence to talk about previously taboo subjects.
‘Entering and winning has been without a doubt the highlight of my career and probably my life so far,’ she says.
‘I have grown in confidence and put myself in situations and on stages that I never felt possible’
Rachel Luby, 2019 winner of the Mental Health Nursing Award
Ms Luby entered the awards because she wanted to share her work and see it implemented in other areas. ‘Patients were telling us that they would be more confident if staff approached them, but staff felt that they lacked the knowledge to do so, and didn’t see it as a priority,’ says Ms Luby, who works for East London NHS Foundation Trust.
‘They had also raised concerns about the breaking down of boundaries. This was something that I saw on the ward and was echoed in all of the literature on the subject.’
Award has raised the profile of her work
‘I feel passionately that people with mental health conditions have just as much right as everyone else to have safe and fulfilling sexual relationships, but they are more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviours such as unprotected intercourse. The prevalence of unplanned pregnancy, HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections is higher in this population.’
Referring to the use of pharmaceutical therapies, she adds: ‘What is more, some patients with sexual side effects do not report them to professionals and instead discontinue or reduce medication alone.’
Winning the award has raised the profile of her work and she is proud that it has been shared in her local media. ‘For a forensic service to have something positive in the press is not always an easy task, so I am glad that I helped to rebuild some of those relationships,’ she says.
‘I have been able to speak and share the work with people as far away as Australia, and I am really pleased I have also been able to raise the profile of the sexual health charity partners that worked with us. It was my way of thanking them for all they had done.’
Ms Luby spoke at the launch of the Sexual Safety Collaborative, commissioned to draw up new standards and improve sexual safety on mental health wards by NHS Improvement.
She says: ‘This was important because there were over 40 trusts in the room. I argued that we could not improve sexual safety until we created a culture where staff and patients were able to talk about sex.
‘It gave me a platform to make a passionate plea, a “challenge” to the wards involved not to stop at sexual safety but to work to create an environment where we assess, address and promote all areas of our patients’ sexual health.’
As part of the collaborative-related work, Ms Luby has contributed to a library of resources to support wards. She expects a flurry of emails when the standards are launched because the work at her trust’s John Howard Centre, which provides specialist forensic psychiatric services, and the setting up of a sexual screening service as part of her new role at City and Hackney Centre for Mental Health are set to be highlighted as examples of good practice.
Ms Luby hopes that having her work published will inspire other nurses to implement similar projects. ‘I am in the process of a final revision of a paper on overcoming the obstacles to include sexual health in mental health nursing practice, which I hope to publish in Mental Health Practice, and I have contributed to another paper that focuses on this topic too.’
‘The nomination has resulted in more interest in our service’
Debbie Creaser, leader of the community enhanced recovery team that won the 2019 Team of the Year Award
She has also joined the journal’s editorial advisory board to help shape its content.
Another category winner in the 2019 awards was Debbie Creaser. She leads the community enhanced recovery team (CERT) at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, which won the Team of the Year title. The team provides intensive rehabilitation enabling people who have been inpatients for years to live in their own homes.
‘The awards are such a great opportunity to recognise and celebrate excellent practice,’ she says.
The team was nominated by its service director. ‘Reading what was written in the nomination made us appreciate how much work we had done,’ says Ms Creaser. ‘Being shortlisted was an amazing achievement. I really appreciated being able to share our story.
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Since winning the award, team members have hosted a conference in Sheffield to share their experience in re-thinking how rehabilitation services are delivered. ‘The nomination has resulted in more interest in our service and we have been able to support other areas in developing community-based services,’ says Ms Creaser.
Ms Luby has had a similar experience since being named RCNi Awards Mental Health Nursing category winner last summer. ‘I feel I’ve crammed four years of career into that time. I have grown in confidence and put myself in situations and on stages that I never felt possible. This award has been life changing.’
This article was updated in July 2020