Learning Disability and Autism specialist nurse Rebecca Crossley has recently been presented with her RCN (Royal College of Nursing) Award after a busy few months working on the accessible Covid-19 vaccination clinics which won her the award.
In October 2021 Rebecca won the Learning Disability Nursing Award at the RCN Awards. However, due to a number of factors, including Covid restrictions at the time which meant the ceremony was virtual, she hadn’t been formally presented with the award, until earlier this week.
James Paget nurse Rebecca, who is currently on secondment with Norfolk & Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, was handed the award by our Deputy Director of Nursing, Jacky Copping, watched virtually by Paul Morris, our Director of Nursing.
Rebecca won the award in recognition for her work to make sure vulnerable people with a learning disability were able to have their Covid vaccinations – setting up one of the first specialist vaccination clinics in the world for this group of patients.
When Rebecca was getting her vaccination, she quickly realised it would be a difficult experience for people with anxiety or sensory needs.
“Starting an accessible COVID-19 vaccine clinic for people with learning disabilities and autism along with those with severe and enduring mental health conditions, was an essential thing to do. I organised engagement events with people who would be using the service to ensure we got it right from the beginning, as people needed to return for their second dose. This resulted in the pathway being truly co-produced with the families who would be using it.”
She found a room in the James Paget vaccination hub at the Louise Hamilton Centre, on the hospital site, which she could tailor for people’s sensory needs, and then sourced person-specific materials, for example, toy tractors for a young man who loves tractors. The room had a separate entrance, bypassing the busy main reception area, to provide a quiet and calm atmosphere and worked around individual needs, through discussions with carers in advance of the vaccination appointment – for example vaccinating people who were sat inside cars if they were worried about entering the clinic.
The service has since vaccinated hundreds of people, some with severe needle phobias, who previously had never had a vaccination.
At the time she won the award Rebecca said she was delighted. “It’s such a great opportunity to keep people with a learning disability and/or autism in the spotlight. I feel very proud of myself, the teams I work with and of the hospital as a whole. Without the trust’s open-minded approach the clinic would not have happened. Not all people have access to a clinic like this – we have had enquiries from across the country and internationally too.”
Rebecca will now join the judges for this year’s RCN Awards. Nominations are open until Friday 25 March. You can read more here; https://rcni.com/nurse-awards