My job

'Good assessment skills are crucial to nursing'

Identify weaknesses in your practice, and develop them says nurse manager Helen Phelan

Identify weaknesses in your practice, and develop them to move forward says nurse manager Helen Phelan


Helen Phelan. Picture: David Gee

What is your job?  

I am the nurse manager for Bradford Bevan Healthcare and for the past five and half years I have been responsible for the implementation and management of the outreach services. This is a joint initiative set up between Bevan Healthcare, Horton Housing Association and Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

In this role I am the nurse manager for the pathway team (hospital in reach), BRICSS (Bradford respite intermediate support services) and nursing management input into the Bevan street medicine team. Together, the three services provide an integrated wraparound service for vulnerable homeless patients and clients.

Why did you become a nurse?

I did work experience at a nursing home when I was 15 and knew that I wanted to work in a care setting; nursing is what I have wanted to do since then.

What might you have done otherwise?

Social work or midwifery.

Where did you train?

Through the Open University on a secondment from the hospital where I was working as an advanced healthcare assistant.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The autonomy and flexibility with my role. Seeing the service develop, meeting new patients with complex issues. No two days are ever the same.

What is your greatest challenge?

Managing three services can be difficult. The complexities of the patients that we see can be a challenge, especially prioritising their needs when each case is so complex.

What has given you most satisfaction?

Being shortlisted for the RCNi Nurse of the Year award. Also, a palliative care case we coordinated, where we were able to fulfil the patient’s wishes and give him the end of life care he wanted, rather than what people expected him to have.

What nursing achievement makes you most proud?

Being shortlisted for the RCNi community nurse award.

What or who inspires you, and why?

When I was a nursing student, a tissue viability nurse came to assess a patient I was looking after and the no judgement way she handled the patient really stuck with me. The patient was an intravenous drug user and was worried about her reaction. When he voiced these concerns her response was: ‘I am not here to judge you in any way, I am here to treat you and provide the best care I can – regardless of what brought you to hospital’.

I remember thinking that was the type of nurse I wanted to be. Eight years on I still feel that I practice this way.

Outside work what do you enjoy doing?

Looking after my two daughters and two boxer dogs. I also enjoy reading and getting lost in a good book.

What makes a good community or primary care nurse?

Good assessment skills are crucial in nursing, as are being able to assess the situation and patients. Having the ability to reflect on your practice and not being afraid to learn from reflection. Identifying any weaknesses in your practice, and work on developing them.

What advice would give a newly-registered nurse?

Not to rush into specialising in a certain field; experience different specialties to work out which you are best suited to.

What is likely to affect nurses working in primary care over the next 12 months? 

Stopping the bursary will have a negative impact on the take up of newly qualified nurses.

You were a finalist at the RCNi Nurse of the Year Awards 2018. Why do you think they are so important to the profession?

The recognition of the individual and the profession is vital.

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