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My day: Working as a homelessness outreach nurse

My day: Working as a homelessness outreach nurse

Jane Morton, advanced nurse practitioner and senior lecturer in advanced clinical practice at Staffordshire University, talks to Wiliam Hunter about a day working as lead for North Staffordshire GP Federation’s homelessness health service team 


The time I get up depends on what shift I am doing that day. We have an early morning outreach programme that starts at six o’clock so that can mean a 4:30 am start, but that’s only once a week, thank goodness.   

I usually take the dog for a walk before I go to work. I live on the outskirts of the city of Stoke-on-Trent and it’s a beautiful area. 

I’ll log onto a laptop to pick up any messages or emails that have come through,  as well as details of any new hospital admissions. We work closely with the rough sleepers team. They will go out and identify anyone who’s been sleeping rough and contact us to see if there are any health issues they need to be aware of that would influence their placement in temporary accommodation. They will also let us know if there are any people who they feel would benefit from a visit from the homelessness health team.

The clinics start around 9:30 am, so if we’re working on community outreach we’ll set up the van, pull out the canopy and lay out tea and coffee facilities. We then put out signs to let everyone know we’re open for business!

People just come along to see us for whatever they need, so we’ll see people for a variety of reasons, from a simple chat to needle exchange or treatments. We carry a fair amount of stock, so we can deal with most things. We are also all ANPs, so we can use electronic prescribing where appropriate. For example, we see quite a few people with abscesses and chest infections, and we can send an electronic prescription to the nearest pharmacy, where the person can go to pick up the medication.

Sometimes people just come along for a bit of support, and we can signpost them to food banks or to facilities where they can get access to a shower and a change of clothes. Most days, we will have somebody with us from the rough sleepers team, so if someone comes in and has been rough sleeping they can put referrals in directly to local housing services. 

After the morning session, we’ll try to move the van somewhere a bit quiet and eat lunch in there. Alternatively, when the weather is warm, it’s nice to go to sit in a park, just to give ourselves a short break in the fresh air and a bit of headspace. 

After lunch, we pack up the van and drive to another location for the afternoon session. A distance of about six miles is usually the furthest we will travel.

While the population we work with tends to be very mobile, we do keep seeing the same people popping up in different locations. The fact that we’re a small team and we can get to know them all is very important. 

We get a regular donation from a local business to buy things to keep the van. For example, I always make sure we’ve got socks spare. When we put a clean bandage on someone, we don’t want to put grubby socks back on, so we’re lucky to have the donation for important items. 

After we’ve seen all those who need our help, I’ll head home to go through the admin work in the evening. Since Covid, I’m lucky to have a nice private office set-up so I can log in remotely. I work through all the referrals and order any stock we need for the van.

As a small team, we are able to work autonomously, building relationships with people and addressing needs as they arise. We also work with the police, probation, drug and alcohol workers, and housing providers. I really enjoy being part of a multidisciplinary team that goes beyond health-related needs. We see things from other perspectives, giving us a better overall understanding.

The admin work can take me well into the evening, but I generally don’t finish much later than about eight. After work I’ll take the dog out again, do some yoga or visit my mum, who lives nearby. 

I am lucky to have a manager who is very supportive. I’m currently working part time, but I can be versatile with that, so if I finish a clinic a bit early then I can use that leftover time to do other things. It’s very flexible, which is brilliant, because it helps me to achieve a better work-life balance.

Profile: Jane Morton

Location: Stoke-on-Trent
Roles: ANP and project lead for North Staffordshire GP Federation’s homelessness health service team
Areas of responsibility: Commissioned to provide healthcare on an outreach basis to anyone over 18 who is homeless or vulnerably housed. Provides drug rehabilitation services, and supports information sharing with police and probation services.


Read more articles from the My Day series here

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