Name: Kerry Carruthers
Job title: Health Advisor
Organisation: Spectrum Community Health CIC, based at Wigan and Leigh Integrated Sexual Health
What is your current role?
I am currently a Band 6 Health Advisor in training within a level 3 integrated Sexual Health Service. A new role to this department.
What was your route to this role?I completed my adult general nursing in 1997. My initial post once qualified as a Staff Nurse was in an Infection Unit in Aberdeen, this was where, I had my first insight into GUM, nursing patients with HIV/AIDS. I then went to work in another specialty of great interest to me, Haematology where I remained for 5 years.
As it was a transplant unit, I became a chemotherapy nurse. This was emotionally difficult and as I had always had a keen interest in sexual and reproductive health, I took the opportunity to gain some women's health experience and became a Staff Nurse in a Gynaecological ward, self funding a contraception course.
Briefly I moved on to Occupational Health Nursing for the same trust, to have an awareness working in a non clinical based environment. As I wanted to progress within GUM, I moved to Greater Manchester and initially undertook a Practice Nurse role, to gain insight into primary care and to be able to develop contraception, cytology and sexual health training and qualifications.
What prompted you to do this role?
My Practice Nurse role confirmed to me that working within Sexual & Reproductive health was an integral part of overall health and well-being. Supporting sexual well being irrespective of an individual's background and sexual orientation continued to interest me and the need to assist in public health concerns spoke for its self. I applied as a clinical Nurse specialist to Bolton Foundation Trust Integrated Sexual and Reproductive Health Service.
I continue to work within the same department nearly 11 years on. Spectrum CIC were commissioned to provide the ISHS in Wigan in March 2018. My current role is central to the control of STIs and HIV. The need for a Health Advisor was identified national Sexual Health strategy 2001 and Spectrum recognised the importance of having a Health Advisor to ensure public health outcomes are met.
What education/courses/modules have you undertaken to equip you for the role?
- BASHH STIF certificate
- Certificate In Cervical Cytology/screening
- University Advanced Certificate in Contraception and Reproductive Sexual Health Care
- Higher Education In Sexual Health, University of Bolton
- Faculty Nexplanon Certificate
- Partner notification certificate Sheffield March 2019
- Funding also has been approved to commence my STIF Sexual Health Advisors Certificate.
How do you see yourself developing your skills?
My 10 years experience within a level 3 integrated service have given me the opportunity to take on the role of the Health Advisor, to utilise and incorporate the skills I already have and with ongoing training in house and externally, my knowledge will continue to expand in regards to Health Advising and benefit my patient's pathway. The importance of the SH advisor cannot be underestimated.
What is your long-term career plan?
As I continue to remain passionate about Sexual Health, I wish to remain within this specialty and further develop leadership and managerial skills. I am currently developing the Health Advisor Role within this service, providing treatment and additional support to patients who have had been diagnosed with an STI and ensuring effective partner notification. I am currently working towards gaining the appropriate Health Advisor qualifications.
What advice would you give someone thinking about moving to work in sexual health?
To follow the BAASH, STIF and faculty competencies as a clinical nurse specialist within an integrated Sexual Health service initially, to build the knowledge and skills needed as a platform for Health Advising.
What do you most enjoy about this area of care?
It is interesting working with a diverse client group and I enjoy providing support and information to empower people to maintain good Sexual and Reproductive Health. This begins with education. The HA role allows me to have the time to support in a variety of ways , for example giving advise and treatment to patients diagnosed with an STI, discussing risk factors with people who have required PEPSE and providing support to those who have been subjected to sexual assault . I enjoy being able to provide treatment for STis in a timely fashion and it is satisfying to to know I am contributing to wider public health by ensuring effective partner notification and prevention of onwards transmission of STIs to others. I also enjoy supporting my colleagues within the department to assist in the flow of a busy clinic and create a smooth patient journey. The Health Advisor role is a key component in the ISHS meeting its key public health objectives.