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'We are getting more skilled at the whole portfolio of sexual health and contraception'

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Julie Raine is proud of the nurses who lead combined sexual and contraceptive services.

Nurses are central to the future of integrated sexual health services. That’s the view of Julie Raine, nurse consultant and lecturer practitioner at Assura Stockton’s Sexual Health Teesside service.

“Nurses are in a good position to build relationships with patients because they are able to assess for issues that some patients would not normally bring up in a consultation with other health professionals.

“We are getting more skilled at the whole portfolio of sexual health and contraception – nurse-led services are seeing nurses inserting implants, advising on sexually transmitted infections and working in genitourinary medicine clinics.

“We will see more of this. That is better for patients, who don’t have to wait as long to access these services or get treatment. And that means we will also see a reduction in STIs, which is a key performance indicator for everyone involved in sexual health.”

Mrs Raine is particularly proud of nurse achievements because her role involves educating all the qualified sexual health nurses at Teesside’s four sexual health hubs and the associated spoke and outreach services, as well as lecturing and supporting many senior nurses through her role as lecturer practitioner at Northumbria University.

At Teesside, all the nurses are being dually trained so they can carry out both STI and contraceptive clinics. The work is being done through a blend of e-learning, theory and assignments.

Mrs Raine has just passed her first cohort of 12 nurses who have gone through this training – many of whom were transferred from the NHS under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations – and says she is overwhelmed with the results.

“It makes me feel like a proud parent to pass these students,” she says. “They come to me asking ‘Am I competent enough to do this? Is this safe?’ and the change in them when they realise they can is phenomenal.”

Mrs Raine has a great deal of confidence around women’s health issues, having trained in 1987 and worked in gynaecology, public health and contraceptive services pretty much from then until she joined Assura Stockton when it took over the running of the Sexual Health Teesside service in February last year.

“After years of looking after women, initially it felt strange to go into sexual health and look after men’s and young boys’ sexual health,” says Mrs Raine.

“As a woman, I found it easier to relate to women, obviously. Also women will come, get checked and leave, but men tend to come in packs to pick up condoms. Like a bravado thing.

“Working in a busy gynaecology ward is different from being in a classroom of teenagers teaching them about STIs, but this contact with the community is what I love. That’s what I tell nurses who feel unprepared caring for men after years in contraceptive services.”

Although her role is “specialised”, her earlier experiences of new things in her career lend her the empathy necessary to train nurses now finding their feet in sexual health.

“I hope I am approachable and, although I do less hands-on patient care now, nurses can still get encouragement from me and feel confident that because of my previous experience, I do understand.

“It’s fantastic that Assura Stockton is supporting the development of nurses with all these skills. I know people around the country are watching what we are doing at Teesside with interest because it’s going to have a real impact on public health.”

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