Name: Sallyann Sutton
Job title: Professional Lead for School Nursing Services
Speciality: School Nursing/Public Health
Organisation: Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
What is your current role?
Professional Lead for School Nursing Services including delivery of Health Transitions, HCP for Special Schools, NCMP and enuresis/continence support.
What was your route to this role?
I started Registered General Nurse training at the Sister Dora School of Nursing in 1986 and qualified in 1990. I worked as a staff nurse on the medical and then surgical ward at Walsall Manor Hospital until 1992.
In 1992 I left acute nursing and moved in a role as a School Nurse. This was pre Specialist Practice qualifications. I worked on a probationary year as an ‘E’ grade nurse for 12 months completing an internal development to gain promotion to an ‘F’ grade School Nurse. The School Nurse certification courses commenced, followed by the opportunity to complete a diploma prior to the degree level Special Practice course being introduced. I started in a School Nurse Team Leader role before commencing my SCPHN degree in 2003, graduating in 2004. 12 months later I gained a place to study an MSc in Child and Family Mental Health at the University of Birmingham. During this time, I worked closely with the Child and Family Psychology Team which afforded me practice experience alongside my academic studies.
The introduction of Choosing Health agenda bought new opportunities and I stepped into the role of Young People’s Health Advisor for Emotional Health and Wellbeing, working alongside School Nursing Services and the Primary Mental Health in CAMHS. In 2008, the DfE Targeted Mental Health in Schools commenced, and I secured a seconded role as the Regional TaMHS Project Management working for NHS West Midlands. I gained my Post Graduate Award in Public Mental Health and Wellbeing from the University of Warwickshire in 2011.
On my return, a further service re-organisation provided an opportunity to apply for the Professional Lead role which I commenced in 2012 and remain in now. Keen to develop my leadership skills I gained a place on the NHS Leadership Academy Elisabeth Garret Anderson programme which lead to an MSc in Healthcare Leadership and the NHS Senior Healthcare Leadership Award which I completed in 2017. I am also proud to have received the title of Queen’s Nurse in recognition of my services in community nursing.
What prompted you to do this role?
I knew early on in my career that I wanted a role in the community. I’d enjoyed community placements during my nurse training. In my life outside of work I was very involved in Girl Guiding and enjoyed working with girls to help their personal and social development. Moving into a role which had a focus on promoting health and wellbeing seemed an obvious career move. School Nursing was very different in 1992, still very much a medical model and medically lead however there were soon opportunities to change this approach and I became very involved locally in leading change.
Service development and leadership really interested me, and I was quite good at it! The progression through various leadership roles has been exciting. I had two areas of interest during my career; sexual health and mental health. I worked at a young people sexual health clinic on a Saturday alongside my School Nurse role. However, mental health was my real direction of travel and I have combined leadership and clinical roles in this area of work.
What education/courses/modules have you undertaken to equip you for the role?
Besides the qualifications listed above I have also completed ENB 903 Family Planning, safeguarding supervisor's course (NSPCC), ENB 903, Teaching and Assessing in Clinical Practice, Trainer the Trainer course for Skills Training for Risk Management (STORM), FRIENDS Resilience Programmes, Solihull Approach Parenting interventions and facilitator training for Triple P Parenting level 2-4, Mental Health First Aid for Adults and Young People. I am a Level 5 ILM Coach and a NLP Practitioner.
How do you see yourself developing your skills?
I have a wide range of skills in public health, mental health, leadership and coaching. With my strong interest in leadership and development I am embracing opportunities to use and develop my skills further afield. I am currently part of Expert Reference Group contributing to developing the Mental Health in Schools Handbook, part of the Children’s Green Paper for Mental Health developments and also a topic expert working with NICE on the review of the Alcohol Education in School Guidance. I have recently become a committee member for SAPHNA which has opened opportunities to be part of a round table event with the Shadow Health Secretary to explore Children’s Public Health matters and I am working with a national charity on a mental health and wellbeing project.
What is your long-term career plan?
I have never had a plan, I have been fortunate to receive funding and the opportunities to develop, this has been alongside a lot of personal commitment to study. I’d like to continue to work in leadership and development with a focus on mental health and wellbeing. Now is a good time to have such a focus with the investment and commitment to improve mental health provision for children and young people.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about moving to work in school nursing and public health?
Working in School Nursing has always been a challenge, the service has had a fair share of struggles. So, working in the field of public health takes commitment, passion and enthusiasm. You need to have a good sense of humor and have a passion for learning.
What do you most enjoy about this area of care?
The children and young people. They are amazing! I have witnessed some real resilience in children and young people when they have experienced challenging times. I love engaging with young people, working with them to develop their ideas and guide how services for them are developed.