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How a shed became a sanctuary for a community of men who felt ‘left behind’

Our 2019 Patient’s Choice Award winner created a haven for men facing social isolation

Our 2019 Patient’s Choice Award winner created a haven for men facing social isolation

  • Practice nurse Sarah Everett worked tirelessly to establish Men’s Shed Govan as a health and activity hub for isolated men
  • The ‘family’ of men who use the Shed also helped to transform what had been a derelict nursery building
  • As well as activities such as gardening, darts and cooking, the Shed offers access to health checks in an informal setting

Men’s Shed Govan. Picture: Mike Wilkinson

A practice nurse has created a haven offering lonely and isolated men in her community friendship and fun, as well as health checks.

Awards logoMen’s Shed Govan is a hub of activity that empowers men who are retired, unemployed or unable to work to take control of their health and well-being. The results have changed lives, according to the men who nominated Sarah Everett in the Patient’s Choice category of the 2019 RCNi Nurse Awards.

The men’s accounts of her commitment and determination to create the facility moved the public to vote in their thousands, earning her the coveted title.

Positive activities

Men’s Shed member John Alexander, who nominated Ms Everett for the award, explains: ‘When I retired two years ago, I didn't want to feel that there's nowhere to go other than the pub or bookies.’

Fortunately, his practice nurse Sarah Everett wanted to address the isolation and loneliness her male patients experienced and develop positive activities for them.

‘It would have been easy to ignore what many men in our community desperately needed, or to assume someone else would rise to the challenge. But Sarah did not’

John Alexander, Men’s Shed Govan member

‘When Sarah consulted us she was sensitive to our mental and physical health needs and knew there was little motivation to make healthy lifestyle choices,’ says Mr Alexander. ‘Under her guidance, a committee was formed and initial contacts made.’


Derelict: the former nursery that became the Shed. Picture: Mike Wilkinson

Ms Everett secured funding from the Queen's Nursing Institute Scotland and encouraged others to join.

‘It became obvious we needed dedicated premises, so Sarah liaised with council officials, pursuing all available options, before securing a derelict former children’s nursery building,’ says Mr Alexander.

Transformation

The whole place needed painting, repairing and refurbishment, but driven by Sarah's ‘can-do’ attitude and unwavering support, the men completely transformed the premises.

‘Now it is a place where a growing group of people who had been “left behind” take part in activities, such as woodwork, gardening, art, cooking and playing games, as well as making friends,’ says Mr Alexander. ‘We support each other and the Shed is a sanctuary for some members.’


On your side: Sarah Everett with some of the men who attend the Shed, including
John Alexander (back left). Picture: Mike Wilkinson

Vistors to the Shed can access health checks and advice on healthy living. ‘Sarah offers support in an informal, accessible way,’ says Mr Alexander. ‘She promotes healthy lifestyle choices, alongside helping the guys improve the management of long-term conditions.

Meet the RCN Nurse of the Year 2019

The extra mile

‘She has relentlessly pursued this when no one else in the area thought it necessary. We have never known a practice nurse who has been so willing and able to go the extra mile for men like us. She dedicates hours navigating her way round red tape and has an infectious and vibrant enthusiasm, which is inspirational.

‘She motivates everyone involved to keep going, even when we have been dealt bitter blows. Her ability to lead and cajole is what has made the Shed possible.’


Gardening is a popular activity at the Men’s Shed. Picture: Mike Wilkinson

Ms Everett credits the relationship she built with the men as a practice nurse for what they have achieved together. ‘It is the foundation of the project,’ she says.

She qualified from Dundee in 1989 before training as a children’s nurse and working in intensive care for five years. ‘That taught me a lot about prioritising quickly – seeing what’s most important and getting on with it,’ she says. She took those skills to practice nursing in 2002.

‘You get to know patients really well’

‘I loved the buzz of intensive care but you never knew what happened to the patient once they were discharged,’ she says. ‘Now I have a strong relationship with the patients, especially those with long-term conditions. You see them a lot and get to know them really well. It’s like a little family.

‘I asked a few patients that I know well how they felt about a Men’s Shed. They have diabetes or other health problems and I wanted to help them find somewhere to go that wasn't the pub.


The Shed is an informal setting where health checks are carried out alongside a game
of darts. Picture: Mike Wilkinson

‘They thought it was a great idea and it took off from there. It was difficult at first – such a slow process working with the council, but we had a councillor who was supportive and eventually got things moving.’

Lifesaver

She started with five patients but it quickly grew to 15. Now more than 30 attend regularly. ‘They all gave so much time painting, doing the garden, cutting the grass,’ says Ms Everett. ‘They got it looking really good. It gives them a sense of worth as well as companionship.’


Ms Everett and the men who are part of the 'family' at the Shed. Picture: Mike Wilkinson

She is proud of the difference it has made. One thank-you card she received said: ‘I can’t thank you enough. I don’t think I would be here otherwise. I was so depressed.’

‘He is here every day it is open,’ says Ms Everett. ‘It has been very powerful. Before the Shed, that man went four months without seeing anyone.’

Ms Everett continues to apply for grants and seek support while still caring for her patients in Govan full time.

Shared dream

‘It would have been easy to ignore what many men in our community desperately needed, or to assume someone else would rise to the challenge,’ says Mr Alexander. ‘But Sarah did not, she embraced the opportunity and believed in us as we pursued this shared dream.

All the winners from the RCNi Nurse Awards 2019

‘Her resourcefulness, passion, dedication and unstinting work ethic is nothing short of astounding. Thanks to her, Govan now has one great Shed – not just the building, but the spirit of its members. It is an ever-growing part of our community.’


Elaine Cole is RCNi special projects editor


The Patient’s Choice Award is supported by the Patients Association

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