Name: Bryony Grimshaw
Job title: Sexual Health Nurse, Band 5
Organisation: Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust
What is your current role?
I work as a Sexual Health Nurse within a busy integrated clinic in Worthing that provides both Sexual Health services & contraception services. I have been there since August 2017.
Initially my job was based purely around Sexual Health & my main duties include:
- Taking histories for asymptomatic & symptomatic patients
- Examining both male & female patients
- Collecting samples for a range of different sexually transmitted infections
- Diagnosing some conditions with the use of microscopy
- Health promotion & having discussions with patients about safe sex
- Assessing patients who have been the victim of sexual assault (acute, recent & historic)
- Assessing patients who need PEPSE after high-risk exposures
- Rapid HIV testing
- Giving positive results & treatments in the absence of the Health Advisor
- Identifying patients in need of vaccinations such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B & HPV
- Assessing safeguarding risk & making appropriate referrals if necessary
I have recently received my FSRH Nurse Diploma which means I can now provide contraceptive services for patients as well. This involves:
- Taking a thorough history for a patient & talking to them to try & understand what their contraceptive priorities are & helping to find a method that suits them
- Explaining how each of the contraceptive methods work & describing their advantages & disadvantages
- Counselling a patient on how to use a method effectively (including barriers, pills, patches, rings, natural family planning)
- Referring patients for Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC)
- Undertaking pregnancy testing then giving either early pregnancy advice or signposting to BPAS
- Giving emergency contraception
What prompted you to do this role?
I felt that Sexual Health nursing would enable me to use some of the transferable skills I had learnt in emergency care such as assessment skills, good time-management, breaking bad news & managing difficult/sensitive scenarios & knowing when to escalate if I’m worried about a patient.
Sexual Health Nursing is similar to working in ITU/HDU in that it is very nurse led. There are many opportunities for nurses in Sexual Health including training in inserting subdermal implants/coils & being able to diagnose then prescribe medications for common conditions under a PGD.
What was your route to this role?
I started my nursing career in Acute Medicine/Emergency Care. I then went on to go and work in ITU/HDU at a major trauma centre in Brighton. I absolutely loved the fast paced, dynamic side of nursing & providing care for really sick patients. It was my intention to do this forever then I unfortunately had a nursing-related injury to my back that required surgery & became unable to do manual handling anymore.
What education/courses/modules have you undertaken to equip you for the role?
I have attended the STIF Course & will be able to achieve STIF competencies in the future. I have undertaken the FSRH Nurse Diploma to enable me to provide contraceptive services for my patients.
How do you see yourself developing your skills?
I will continue to see a varied range of patients to gain more experience. I also like to work in different clinics to have access to a different demographic of patients. I like to pick the brains of my colleagues to try & expand my knowledge & learn different ways of doing things. I keep myself up to date by reading journals & relevant news articles & any new guidelines that are published by BASHH or FSRH.
What is your long-term career plan?
I intend to stay within Sexual Health & Contraception for a long time. I would love to develop my leadership skills further & take on the role of a Band 6 nurse within in the speciality. In the future I would love to do my non-medical prescribing course.
What advice would you give someone thinking about moving to work in sexual health?
To do this job you need to be completely non-judgemental. You need to be friendly & approachable & compassionate. When you a see a patient in a Sexual Health Clinic you need to be able to build up a good rapport in a short space of time otherwise they will not feel comfortable to tell you sensitive information that may be crucial to providing them with the best care.
It helps if you are interested in health promotion as a lot of our work involves giving advice & coaching patients about safe sex in order for them to try & keep themselves safe. A lot of it is also about risk reduction & thinking about how we can keep our most vulnerable patients the safest.
Great communication skills will help with both building good relationships with patients & also the health promotion side of things as well. You need to have good assessment skills & excellent time management skills as you are expected to manage your own workload in a dynamic & busy environment.
What do you most enjoy about this area of care?
I love that patients often come in feeling anxious or embarrassed or upset but that I (alongside my wonderful team) can usually make them feel better before they leave with either a diagnosis & treatment or some information. That feels like a very privileged position to be in as a health care professional.
I also love that even though the infections/contraception needs are the same it never feels repetitive because each patient is so different. It really gives you a good opportunity to give fantastic person-centred care.
There is always lots of research going on around Sexual Health & by being a Sexual Health Nurse I get to be part of trials that will shape the way care is provided such as the PrEP trial.