Each month we profile a care professional who has come into the sector after a career change and who demonstrates that it really is never too late to care! This month we feature Christine Sanderson who previously worked in the police force and is now an award winning Nurse and Team Leader at Consensus.
We interviewed Christine alongside her Manager Hayley Edgar to get an insight into the service and why being nominated and then shortlisted after coming to care later in life, means so much to Christine.
Christine says, “I was chuffed, surprised and thrilled with the nomination and to be shortlisted. I honestly think it’s just my job. I came to nursing later in life in the hope that people’s days would be made better because of the work that I do and of course that the team around me benefit too through feeling safe and supported.
“The whole team here are very supportive of each other and the award really is about us all, it’s a Vale House thing.”
Christine came to nursing later than some as she mentioned, having joined the police cadets at the age of 16 and spending a significant number of years in the police force. But she says she fell into it and it was never really what she had dreamed of doing. She moved from policing to hospitality for a period. Underlying Christine’s motivation in life is a genuine desire to help people and the opportunity to make a difference.
When her closest friend underwent treatment for Cancer, Christine noted the dedication, care and compassion which the healthcare professionals afforded her. It made a huge difference in very emotional and difficult times to both Christine, her family and her friends. This had a big impact on Christine and she made the decision having reached a point of financial stability to embark on a nursing degree. Three years later and graduation complete Christine took up a role in a Mental Health Hospital working on an adolescent psychiatric unit, but when the role came up with Vale House, Christine had no hesitation in applying for it.
Fast forward another three years and Christine says moving to Vale House was the best thing she has ever done. “It’s the best staff team, we’re strong. My Manager Hayley, Veronica our Deputy and Selina provide me with the best support. In fact, they couldn’t be more supportive of all of us in the team.”
With a nurse led team and strong support team, Christine focuses on a very person-centred approach to help individuals fulfil their potential at their own pace, complemented by positive behavioural strategies and interventions, including very importantly the management of risk.
Respecting and protecting rights, including and engaging people with learning disabilities and their families and carers, and ensuring her team are fully supported are all fundamental to Christine’s role as a Learning Disability Nurse and Team Leader. A true champion for nursing in the area of learning disabilities Christine hopes that it will shine a light on her role at a time when the population of people with learning disabilities is growing but there are fewer learning disability nurses in practice.
Vale House is a residential service for people with learning disabilities which consists of six self-contained flats providing accommodation and nursing support for males with learning disabilities, autism and associated complex needs, with a difference. The individuals supported have been in, or can be at risk of coming into, contact with the Criminal Justice System, with some coming from long stay hospital settings.
It is configured to offer a unique and extremely safe, support model to encourage independence but also support social interaction, inclusion and access to community engagement.
Service Manager, Hayley, tells us that what makes the service successful and safe is the 24 strong, team’s ability to mitigate risk. “They are very skilled in risk mitigation and whilst they are hugely person-centred the need to manage risk, supersedes anything else. In managing this well we can create a good community presence, which again is important in being able to support individuals to participate safely in activities within their community.”
People supported at Vale House enjoy a variety of individual pursuits including walking football, and time in their sportsman’s clubs. However together they are motivated to help others and regularly organise, with support of the team, charity events, donating the proceeds to local good causes.
Hayley says, “There are risks with ensuring our supported individuals live their lives fully and access as normal a life as they wish in the community. But we believe in positive risk management and so begin with supporting individuals to recognise their own risks firstly and then help them plan activities in such a way that they can enjoy them fully and importantly safely.”
Hayley values all members of her team highly without exception and will readily thank each and every one for their support, commitment and professionalism. She knows their roles are not easy and that a thank you goes a long way, but she was in her own words, “Really excited” when Christine Sanderson, Nurse and Team Leader at Vale House was shortlisted for an award in the Great British Care Awards.
“It was brilliant” says Hayley, “Christine doesn’t have a lot of self-confidence, but I know that we wouldn’t be the team we are without her here. She is a great example of what a good Team Leader and Nurse should be. She does extra work, yes, but she never complains, and I always get great feedback from all who work with her including, colleagues, individuals, families, and external stakeholders. I know that if Christine is on shift when I go home the service is in a safe pair of hands. It may sound a little selfish but knowing I have a great team means I can achieve a good work life balance too. It means a lot.”
Sitting with Christine alongside her, Hayley adds, “I also believe that this is a really good opportunity to gain recognition of the role that Christine performs. She is a nurse in a complex service and must work within very strict legal frameworks. She leads her team supporting them in equal measure as she does me and the individuals within the service. The team are proud that the roles they perform are now meriting such recognition.”