Spectrum Sexual Health service

Sue Hansford

Name: Sue Hansford 

Job title: Head of Service, Sexual Health

Organisation: Spectrum Integrated Sexual Health, Wigan and Leigh

What is your current role?

I currently work as the Head of Service for Spectrum integrated sexual health services in Wigan and Leigh.   

What was your route to this role?

I began nursing in 1979 at North Manchester General Hospital and qualified as an SRN in 1981. I had particularly enjoyed the brief placement Id had on the maternity unit so began my midwifery training there after working as a staff nurse on a care of the elderly unit. I loved midwifery, particularly the patient contact and the privilege of looking after women and their partners at a very special time in their lives. I completed my "family planning" qualification whilst working as a midwife, this seemed a natural fit with midwifery as it enabled me to advise women on contraception in the post natal period. I also completed my smear sampling course. I stayed at North Manchester working as a staff midwife and then as a midwifery sister. I had a role as an out of hours community midwife working between the hours of 8pm and 8am. This was a very interesting role as it covered the whole of the north Manchester area.  I also continued to do my sexual health work on a part time basis.

In 1989 then went on to become a community Midwife at Tameside General hospital. I was still working in sexual health in both adult and young peoples clinics. I became a Supervisor of Midwives and completed my BSc Hons Midwifery. I then became a lecturer Practitioner in Sexual Health at Manchester University. This was a secondment from my midwifery role. I was able to work with nurses who were completing their post graduate sexual health qualification which would allow them to work in sexual health clinics. I loved this role as I have always been enthusiastic about promoting sexual health. At the same time I began working for Brook who were specialists in Young people's sexual health. I really enjoy working with young people it is challenging but very rewarding too. I gained valuable experience working at Brook in particular with safeguarding. I continued with my professional development whilst in this role and completed my Masters Degree in Health Care Ethics and Law. I chose this masters degree because I think there are lots of ethical issues in sexual health and I felt thinking around these issues would help me in my daily role. 

I decided that I wanted to work in sexual health full time and was successful in gaining a post as a Lead nurse in a community sexual health service in St. Helens in 2005. This involved managing the nursing and administrative staff in the service as well as continuing with my clinical work. I stayed in this post for  11 years seeing the service change from being a PCT based service to becoming an integrated sexual health service in an acute trust. Working as part of an Integrated service allowed me to start to develop different skills as part of a GUM  service. It was a steep learning curve and meant that we had to rethink how we delivered services within the community as well as equipping nursing staff to have dual skills in both contraception and GUM. I also did a management certificate, prince 2 project management and a mediation course with ACAS. I continued to work clinically in sexual health despite my management role. I completed my NMP course in 2016.  

In 2016 I took up a new role as Nurse Manager with Brook in Oldham and then Manchester. I really enjoyed going back to work with young people and with Brook again. My role was both clinical and managerial. I moved to my current post in July 2018.  

What prompted you to do this role?

I have always had an interest in sexual health from when I worked as a midwife. I wanted to be able to give women in my care reliable advice on contraception and their sexual health. I also like working with young people to empower them to be able to make informed choices about their sexual health. 

What education/courses/modules have you undertaken to equip you for the role?

I have completed a degree in midwifery and a masters degree in Health care ethics and law. I have completed the STLF course and hold the Letter of Competence for sub dermal implants. I have completed the course of five and hope to complete my Diploma in sexual health shortly. 

How do you see yourself developing your skills?

I would like to use my NMP qualification more within this service. I enjoy management and would like to develop my management skills as Head of Service.

What is your long-term career plan?

My long term plan is to continue to work in sexual health. I would like to encourage more nurses to think of sexual health as a career option rather than an addition to their substantive role and look at ways in which we can encourage nurses into this type of service so that skills and expertise can be passed on to a new generation of nurses.

What advice would you give someone thinking about moving to work in sexual health?

I would say that it is important to get a robust general training first to be sure that you want to specialize in this field. You will need not just theoretical knowledge but practical experience too. You will also need a non-judgemental approach and a desire to be able to empower patients by giving them knowledge to be able to make informed choices.

What do you most enjoy about this area of care?

Every day is different and sexual health is a very dynamic area of nursing. It is a very rewarding area of nursing to work in.