A healthcare assistant working with farmers and those living in rural North Wales to tackle men’s health problems has been shortlisted for a nursing “Oscar”.
Steven Evans-Jones, who is based at Dolgellau and Barmouth Hospital, is in the running for the 2016 RCNi Nurse Awards.
The 39-year-old has been nominated by his colleague Anne Thomas in the healthcare assistant community award section of the contest, run by the Royal College of Nursing, and seen as the top accolade for those in the profession.
A stunned Steven said: “When I got the email about the shortlisting I thought they’d sent it to the wrong person at first. It does feel nice but I think what I do is something we should all be doing.
“People have got to try and take some sort of responsibility for their health but they need our support and guidance.
“It’s up to all of us who work in the healthcare sector to help people do that.”
Steven will find out if he is a winner on Friday, May 6, at the Westminster Park Plaza Hotel in London.
The former hairdresser, entertainer and special needs worker re-trained and became a ward healthcare assistant at Dolgellau Hospital.
He now works as healthcare assistant supporting the 15 specialist outpatient clinics that operate out of the hospital. He also runs his own clinics covering everything from blood testing, 24 hour ECGs to weight management and smoking cessation.
But it is when he is away from the hospital that he really comes in to his own, reaching out into rural communities alongside the dedicated health promotion team.
Determined to get vital information into the communities he serves, he takes groups of older people to leisure centres, talks to colleges and students about the dangers of meningitis and gives presentations on testicular cancer to groups of police and firemen.
His team also discusses skin problems and sun screening with farmers and construction workers who are outside all day, and manage a network of information boards they have installed in leisure centre changing rooms, police and fire stations and colleges.
“I loved my work on the wards,” said Steven. “But always felt that it was just as important to prevent ill health as to treat it.
“When the team in the Out Patient Department developed the idea of rural community hospitals as Health Promotion Hubs, it just all made sense to me and I knew that was what I wanted to be doing.
“And we must be on the right track, we must be doing something right as they are now looking to replicate our model in another four hospitals.”
Steven explained that the key to the success of the Health Promotion Hub was knowing your community and understanding both its needs and challenges.
He added. “This is such a beautiful area, but there are challenges to being rural whether that is access to information, costs of travel or transport links.
“What we’re trying to say is ‘you’re rural, but you’re equal.’ If someone has to travel for an hour and a half to go to a stop smoking session, they’re not going to do it. This is so important to us that if someone asks us to do an evening presentation, for example on prostate cancer to the Rotary Club, then of course, we do it.”
As an ambassador with men’s health charity Orchid, Steven often works to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancers and gives talks on both subjects in the community.
“Men do have a tendency to suffer in silence,” Steven explained. “And often the groups of lads I have talked to say no one has ever spoken to them about something like testicular cancer before.”
Before he went in to nursing, Steven trained as a hairdresser and also lived in Spain for four years working as an entertainer, but he still found it hard at first to do the public speaking.
He said: “The first time I got up to talk to a group of people, I think they were rheumatology consultants at a conference, I just froze. Now I’ve gone from someone who could never be a public speaker to someone who never shuts up, but it has been a steep learning curve.”
Anne Thomas is a staff nurse at Dolgellau with Steven and works with him, along with fellow healthcare assistant Sharon Edwards in the health promotion team as well as in the outpatients department.
Having seen him flourish and inspire others with his passion for the job, she decided to nominate him for the RCNi award.
Anne said: “Steven seems to have really found his niche now. He’s so enthusiastic when he talks and you can’t enthuse others without that. He is a real credit to the department.
“Everything we do here is about addressing inequalities in rural communities and reaching out to as many people as we can and Steven is so good at that.
“Nurses know their communities and Steven really gets through to them and the benefits of that are amazing.”
Steven added: “I just get chatting to them while they’re in Out Patients and find out what they need from us. A lot of them are crying out for a bit of support and just needs someone to say, ‘OK, well we’ll do this together then’.”
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board west area director Ffion Johnstone said: “I am delighted that Steve has been shortlisted for the community award in the 2016 RCNi Nurse Awards.
“This is a recognition of the hard work that he and his team have put into reaching out into the communities of north west Wales.
“This rural area presents its own particular healthcare challenges and so it’s important we go to talk to people in the communities that they live and work, rather than waiting for them to contact us.
“Advice and prevention is a key part of effectively delivering healthcare, and we always want to hear from people on how we can improve our services.
“I wish Steven the best of luck on the big night.”