A Day in the Life of a Health Protection Nurse by Rita Huyton

rita-huytonHello, I am a Senior Health Protection Nurse Practitioner. I work for Public Health England North West. I lead a great team of practitioners. Health Protection Practitioners come from a variety of professional backgrounds including: nursing, health visiting, environmental health and sciences. We work in a multidisciplinary team with consultants, epidemiologists, scientists, analysts, emergency planners and administrators to protect the health of the local population. Health protection covers communicable disease surveillance/control, emergency preparedness, resilience and response, and environmental public health.

It is bonfire night as I write this, fireworks of many shapes and colours can be seen exploding in the distance. This made me think about the wide variety of work we undertake in health protection. To give you a flavour here is a typical week for me in health protection:

Monday: I attended a quality improvement meeting in Birmingham. This was an opportunity to meet colleagues from across the country and exchange ideas on how we can measure and improve quality on a daily basis.

Tuesday: I met with local colleagues working in Infection Prevention and Control and Microbiology. We discussed issues such as decontamination of medical devices, infection prevention and control in the beauty industry, educational needs of junior doctors with regard to antibiotic prescribing.

Wednesday: I worked with my team to ensure a group of students at a local university received antibiotics in a timely manner. These students were close contacts of a case of suspected invasive meningococcal disease. Students are very mobile and this involved liaising with health protection teams across the country, GPs, student services, our media & communications team and the local authority.

Thursday: I participated in a de-brief following a national pandemic flu exercise. The purpose of the exercise was to test our resilience in such a situation and how we would work with the NHS and other agencies to protect the health of the population. Most importantly I had my flu jab that day too!

Friday: I worked in our Acute Response Centre. This involves responding to enquiries from the public, GPs, hospitals, laboratories and emergency services amongst others. That day we dealt with a variety of issues including meningitis, legionnaire’s disease, acute hepatitis B and a national outbreak of suspected food poisoning. Meanwhile, some of my colleagues were taking part in a local market place event where colleagues in health protection shared examples of the preventative work they were involved in. This included: antimicrobial resistance, offender health, tuberculosis and gastrointestinal infections.

Health protection really is a varied and interesting field to work in. As I sit on my sofa I know some of my colleagues are on call this weekend, protecting the health of their local population 24/7.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you would like to know more about health protection please join our twitter chat on Tuesday, 15th at 8pm

Rita Huyton, Senior Health Protection Nurse, Cheshire and Merseyside, Public Health England

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