News | Caroline Kalu | 18 October 2023
NLPSS Careers Insight: Flexibility and a desire to support colleagues led us to occupational health nursing
Delase Tettey, senior occupational health nurse adviser and Helen Gaughan, occupational health nurse advisor are part of the North London Partners Shared Service specialist occupational health team, providing care for employees at one of five trusts in the partnership — Whittington Health NHS Trust.
What’s your role at NLPSS?
Helen: We’re based at Whittington Hospital looking after staff at the trust and those located at community services across Islington and Haringey. The role involves meeting staff at clinics to carry out new starter checks, such as immunisations, taking blood samples and carrying out health needs assessments for those with disabilities or chronic health conditions. We also advise on staff on how to cope with work-related stress and mental health and are responsible for managing needlestick and sharps injuries. These can happen at any time, so a member of the team is always on site to be able to look after staff when they occur.
Delase: On top of what Helen does, I am also responsible for management referrals. We look at how work may be impacting a colleague’s health and what measures we can put in place to ease that. This also involves advising managers and human resources teams on what they can do to support staff.
What led you to occupational health nursing?
Helen: I qualified as a nurse 16 years ago. I was an orthopaedic and trauma nurse and spent a short time vaccinating in the community before I came to occupational health nursing. I made the change as I had children and working shifts did not fit in with my family’s life. I have been an occupational health nurse now for four and a half years and I like the flexibility of being able to work part-time and to hours that suit me. You don’t need any additional nursing qualifications to become an occupational health nurse, it is just learning different policies and processes and with the support of the team you can easily do that. However, there are also opportunities to learn and develop. I am currently studying for an occupational health degree and am due to complete this in the summer.
Delase: I have been a nurse for 10 years and an occupational health nurse for six of those. I had a sports injury and saw an occupational health nurse myself and that was what inspired me to make the switch. I thought that it would be something that I’d be interested in doing. The hybrid working of days in clinic at the hospital combined with homeworking also feels like a good balance. The career progression is quick in occupational health if you want it too.
What’s the most rewarding part of being an occupational health nurse?
Helen: Being an advocate for staff. Working on the wards can sometimes be hard and as I’ve worked there; I understand how to help and support staff. You forget to look after yourself when you are looking after people, and we often tell staff that come to us that it is OK to take a rest.
Delase: I like the rapport you can build with staff. As a nurse you don’t often find out how patients are getting along after they are discharged but as an occupational health nurse you see staff regularly and the impact you can make. It is very rewarding.
How has it been working for the new shared occupational health service?
Helen: The managers check in on our wellbeing and I like that. They are also keen to hear our feedback.
Delase: I agree with Helen. I am impressed with the support the NLPSS management give us, and I like that we are a nurse-led team.