My job

60 seconds with custody nurse Robyn Connelly

Robyn Connelly talks about her job as a custody nurse, in which she examines people detained in the court system

Robyn Connelly talks about her job as a custody nurse, in which she examines people detained in the court system


Robyn Connelly says her advice to her younger self
would have been to study and revise harder

Robyn Connelly qualified as a registered general nurse in 2012 from the University of the West of Scotland. After moving to London she worked as a trauma theatre lead nurse at St Thomas’ Hospital and as a sexual health matron in London and Essex before returning to Scotland in 2016 to join nursing agency ScotNursing. She completed custody nurse training with the agency and has been in her current role as a full-time custody nurse for two years.

What are your main work responsibilities?

As a custody nurse covering the west of Scotland I am called to the courts to carry out clinical assessments and examinations of people who have been detained. This involves collecting information so I can identify any health issues and initiate appropriate health interventions.

Who are your clients/patients?

People who have been detained in custody, including those waiting for court decisions on whether they will be granted bail or kept in custody. Many of those I care for have problems with drug and alcohol addiction.  

What do you love about your job?

The unknown – I never know what to expect from day to day, and each call-out is different. I also enjoy the travelling that comes with covering such a large geographical area.

What do you find most difficult?

Dealing with vulnerable people who have an addiction. They usually have traumatic stories to tell and are often crying out for help.

What is your top priority at work?

As soon as I get the call I get my court bag – which contains items such as blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring equipment, dressings, swabs, saline and venepuncture equipment – and head straight to court. I have to move quickly as I have to decide whether a detainee is fit to be interviewed and/or detained, or if I need to refer them to hospital for further clinical assessment or treatment.

How have you developed your skills in this role?

My communication skills have developed greatly in this role, especially my ability to really listen to what people are saying. This is crucial if I want them to open up to me. I also liaise with a variety of other professionals, including police officers, solicitors, prison officers and other health professionals such as GPs.

What has been your most formative career experience?  
I was once stopped in the street by a former patient who told me he had sorted his life out and was drug-free thanks to me. Just one simple phone call to his GP set him on the road to recovery and he has now been clean from heroin for over a year.

RELATED: What to expect from a nursing student placement in police custody

If you hadn’t become a nurse, what would you have done instead?

A teacher – I really enjoyed biology at school, so probably a biology teacher.

What will be your next career move?

I am a mentor and love teaching students, so possibly a move into education.

What is the best lesson nursing has taught you?

Life is far too short and can be cruel. Live every day like it’s your last, as none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow.

What career advice would you give your younger self?

Study and revise harder, and never stop learning.

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