Real-life story - Philip Wells
Philip has always enjoyed working as a school nurse because of its variety.
How I got into the role
I decided to leave the RAF in 1992 and becoming a nurse felt like a natural progression and I liked the idea of being able to try different branches of nursing once I qualified.
I did a diploma in Adult Nursing at the University of Exeter, and then worked at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton in the medical unit, specialising in cardiology, diabetes and gastroenterology. I then did a Specialist Community Public Health Nursing degree at the University of Plymouth which I completed in 2000, qualifying with a 2:1 BSc (Hons).
Spending time in a GP practice during my pre-registration training was a very positive experience and I worked with a team comprising a school nurse, midwife, health visitor and district nurse. The school nurse was particularly inspirational, and I enjoyed working in schools, particularly secondary schools. That positive experience has stayed with me.
What I do
My first school nurse job was in Torquay in Devon where I became aware I was possibly the only male school nurse in the south of England! I worked in Torquay for two school years, developing my skills in teaching, setting up and running school-based clinics and fulfilling the wider public health role of the school nurse, for example vaccination programmes. During this time I also completed my practice teacher qualification which enabled me to mentor other school nurse degree students.
In 2002, I took a school nurse post back in Somerset and a year later became the team leader. I also became the first male in the county at that time to have completed the family planning qualification.
There were many changes in community services during my first few years in Somerset, and me and my colleagues developed a standardised school nurse role across the county, eventually amalgamating services from four primary care trusts into one organisation. In 2008, I became lead professional for the service and where we have developed the service and been successful in doubling the size of the county team.
In Somerset, we run drop in clinics in most secondary schools which provide a confidential service to address any physical and emotional needs young people may have such as sexual health and emotional health and well-being issues. School nurses also have an important health promotion role with school age children in both schools and local communities.
The best bits and challenges
I’m pleased to say that school nursing has an important and recognised role in meeting the emotional and physical needs of children and young people. The Department of Health’s Getting it right for children, young people and families strategy provides a framework for school nursing of the future through a model of universally-provided services that are more targeted to local need.
Young people get a lot of negative press but they never fail to impress and inspire me with their resilience and creativity. They definitely keep me on my toes! Working with children and young people means no two days are the same.