Guest blog by Ann-Marie Adiku, Occupational Health Nurse
My journey to occupational health (OH) began in 2021. My skin condition had flared up to the point where it became difficult to work safely and effectively as a nurse in a clinical setting with patients. I became a patient, under the care of Dr Shriti Pattani (SOM Immediate Past President) and an amazing team of nurses. It was a period where, although I felt discouraged about my nursing journey, I witnessed how OH advocated for me and supported me through a challenging time. Amid the pandemic I felt seen and heard. After several appointments and meetings, I was redeployed from the ward setting to clinical duties supporting the COVID help desk in OH. My redeployment exposed me to how OH contributed and supporting to the health and wellbeing of NHS employees in the workplace and how this improves their quality of working life and patient care, showing that it is an area essential for everyone.
With time and with reduced exposure to recurrent handwashing, my skin condition began to improve and respond to treatment which meant I could consider adjusting back to clinical duties. However, after witnessing and experiencing the care of OH, I began to wonder about a career in OH which I had never considered previously. Fortunately, a job opportunity presented itself which I decided to go for and was successful at interview.
Being part of the team, I can see things in the workplace from a different perspective, a preventative aspect. Occupational health (OH) is a fulfilling place to work, encouraging health promotion and advocating for healthcare professionals. As my experience in OH is developing I have realised the progress and success I can enjoy at the frontiers of Public Health.
Through the NHS Growing Occupational Health & Wellbeing programme, I was given the opportunity to complete a two-week diploma course in OH practice with the Faculty of Occupational Health Medicine (FOM). This deepened my knowledge; it was a privilege to learn from a variety of OH professionals with years of experience and to be taught alongside other aspiring OH nurses of different bandings and skill sets. This reinforced the benefits of pursing an OH career.
Subsequently, I continued to build my career and in September 2023, I enrolled at Brunel University to complete the Specialist Community Public Health Nursing (SCPHN) PgDip. Going back to university has been a positive experience. Although there are challenges that come with working and studying full time, I am fortunate to have the support of my workplace and family which has been a great source of guidance and encouragement. Within the course, I have been privileged to have the opportunity to be taught by internal and external educators, and the knowledge gained has informed my evidence-based practice, thus improving and extending the scope of my professional practice.
I have gained a deep appreciation and understanding of what people in need of such services are experiencing, as well as a respect and admiration for the professionals of OH. Through my ongoing learning from the SCPHN course, I hope to have a positive supportive impact on the lives of those in the workplace as I have experienced through my own experience with OH.
Ann-Marie Adiku is an Occupational Health Nurse at London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust.