March: Paul

Paul qualified as a nurse in 2004, working in A&E for six years. He then completed six years in an NHS Community Substance Misuse team, where he helped set up the alcohol and drug services at the local hospital. Paul was later seconded from a nurse practitioner in A&E, to his current role as a Domestic Abuse Health Advocate. This post is part of a project across multiple hospitals within the North East, partially funded by Northumbria Police Independent Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird. The project aims to establish a victim’s referral pathway, train frontline staff around disclosures and indicators of domestic abuse, set up a champions network and represent the trust at MARAC meetings. As well as supporting patients, Paul also supports staff experiencing domestic abuse. 

How do the demands differ between a hospital domestic abuse health advocate and an Idva working in the community? 

The hospital is a 24/7 environment and referrals can come in at any time day or night. Due to the nature of our work victims are often attending when they are in crisis – either with serious physical injuries or deterioration in their mental health – meaning staff must deal with multiple issues to make sure that person is safe to leave the hospital. A lot of the time, work is around the immediate risk assessment and safety planning for the person. Making sure that staff across the whole organisation are prepared for this responsibility is a big demand within the role.

What is important to consider when supporting staff who are experiencing abuse?

I’ll always look at the overall picture for the staff member. Often staff alongside their own safety are worried about what will happen regarding their job. I’ll meet up or speak with the staff member and complete a risk assessment. They also get support around onsite security as well as 1-2-1 emotional support as much as they need. I am also often the link between the staff member and management, advocating for the person in any sickness and work-related panels. I also signpost them to local community services. We’ve worked hard to promote the issue of domestic abuse across the whole trust so management are more aware that staff may be victims themselves. In my two years in the post, I’ve supported 49 members of staff.

What do you find is most effective at getting hospital staff on board and confident in responding to domestic abuse?

The number one thing staff tell me is helpful to them, is the onsite support that is available from my role. With the additional training I provide to all frontline staff, it also enables them to be confident to risk assess and safety plan effective discharges; with the option of community service referrals to enable other agencies to pick up the longer term needs. Since coming into the post, I have worked hard to develop a clear pathway that is easy for staff to follow and means they can feel confident that they have offered victims appropriate guidance and support. The aim for us is to make sure every person ready to disclose domestic abuse is met with a confident and competent professional who can support them. 

What is the biggest challenge and the biggest reward as a hospital domestic abuse health advocate? 

The biggest challenge has been introducing new processes and concepts to staff as part of changing existing cultures and ways of doing things.

The biggest reward is when a member of staff or patient gets word back to me that things in their life have vastly improved, and both the victim and children are safe. Nothing comes close to that feeling that you’ve had a positive impact.

Paul was nominated by his colleague, Rachel, who said:

"Paul is doing all round fantastic things to promote the issue of domestic abuse and ensure victims are supported in hospital. He regularly works before and after his working day to support patients that present, or staff that are supporting them. He is honestly such an amazing advocate for victims and survivors and we have found so many more people are coming forward and are being better supported since he came into post."

Do you know a professional who has gone above and beyond to change the response to domestic abuse and keep survivors and their families safe? Nominate someone for Star of the Month by emailing communications@safelives.org.uk with ‘Star of the Month’ as the subject line.