Combined Healthcare’s Jodie up for top accolade at RCN Nursing Awards

The mother of a young man with complex needs has nominated his ‘simply amazing’ community psychiatric nurse for a prestigious award for transforming his care and their lives. 

Stoke mum Michelle Craggs says the compassion and support of nurse Jodie Heath, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust, has kept her son out of hospital and ‘she puts him at heart of everything she does’. 

Ms Heath is one of six nurses who have been named finalists in the Patient’s Choice category of the RCN Nursing Awards. 

The award enables members of the public to thank a nurse, midwife, health visitor, healthcare assistant or assistant practitioner who has provided exceptional care and made a huge difference to their lives. 

A public vote is underway to choose the winner of the award, which is sponsored by workwear specialist Alexandra.

The vote closes on Friday September 3 2021 and the winner will be announced at a ceremony celebrating nursing excellence on October 12. 

Michelle Craggs’ 18-year-old-son has a number of diagnoses along with autism but his care has been transformed since Ms Heath, who specialises in psychosis, began coordinating his care.  

Ms Craggs says: ‘Being a parent/carer dealing with multiple care providers, it can be draining and scary and you learn not to trust a system that is so fragmented between health and social care.  

‘But Ms Heath has adapted so many things for my son. Listening and understanding is key and for the first time following four separate mental health inpatient admissions, my son felt listened to when he talked to her. He sat on his bed and cried and said: “Mum, they believe me”.’  

The family appreciate how Ms Heath continued that support during the pandemic and during a recent inpatient stay: ‘She spent many hours talking to him in online meetings and as soon as they could meet up in person she was there for their walks.  

‘All the appointments are meaningful and purposeful,’ adds Ms Craggs. ‘She shows compassion all the time – even when a parent like me with my diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bounces in. I was worried that the service would struggle with us and find us difficult to manage. Ms Heath doesn’t because she understands our needs and the stresses of living our life.  

Despite the complexity of her son’s care and not having worked with people with autism before, Ms Craggs says nothing has fazed Ms Heath or deterred her from providing excellent support for her son’s complex education and health plans.  

‘I trust her and this makes the times when I am drained and I am wondering how I will get through the next day so much easier,’ says Ms Craggs.  

‘She understands the importance of working together and what it means to be a young person in crisis. She will not allow herself to get caught up in the grinding wheels of the system or the red tape that says “We can’t” and she reframes any challenge by asking “How can we make this happen?”  

‘For years, many professionals redefined the diagnostic criteria to make my son fit in the box. He wasn’t listened to by many doctors. Ms Heath always has the enthusiasm to adapt and work flexibly to make the early intervention systems and processes work specifically for my son.  

‘At last I know he is safe and, most importantly, he also feels safe. My son values the support he has from her and as a parent I know this support helps him so much.’  

Korbyn adds: ‘Ms Heath has helped me so much with being able to talk about my voices in a way I haven’t been allowed before. When I was in hospital she always came to visit me.  

‘She talked to me and helped me understand why I was worried about going to see my new college which helped me and made it easier for me to go there. When my voices are really bad and I want to end my life, she talks to me until I feel better. Things are hard. I find every day a struggle, but Ms Heath will listen to me and help me every day if I ask.’ 

Jodie says: ‘When Michelle and Korbyn told me they had nominated me for this award I felt overwhelmed, their words have meant so much to me. Reading through all the finalists’ nominations was quite emotional, hearing about the impact nurses have on people’s lives makes me so proud to be in this profession. I work for the most amazing team which is why I love what I do!’ 

‘It’s a fantastic achievement for Jodie to be nominated and shortlisted for a prestigious RCN Nursing Award and is testament to her quality of care for our service users. We are very proud of her work and commitment to helping our patients, and also thank Michelle for nominating her,” said Alastair Forrester, Deputy Director of Nursing, AHP and Quality, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust. ‘Good luck Jodie for the awards ceremony.’

Alexandra sponsors the Patient’s Choice award. Head of customer experience Ian Northmore said: ‘Alexandra has been designing and making nursing uniforms for over 150 years and we are incredibly honoured and proud to be main sponsor of the 2021 RCN Nursing Awards and of the Patient’s Choice award category. 

‘I can’t tell you how much we’ve genuinely been moved and humbled by the stories of the life-changing and life-affirming difference nurses, across a range of specialties, are making every single day. Thank you from everyone here at Alexandra.’ 

Gary Bell, editorial director of RCNi, which publishes Nursing Standard, was on the panel that decided the six finalists. 

He said: ‘These finalists demonstrate the diversity of modern nursing and the impact the profession has on the lives of people of all ages and from all walks of life, in a wide range of settings throughout the UK. 

‘We are delighted to be showcasing the profession’s reach and the difference it makes to individuals, families and entire communities.’ 

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