Lynn Paton is 46 years of age and is an advanced nurse practitioner in the South East Healthcare and Forensic Medical Services for People in Police Care. Originally from Edinburgh, she completed her mental health nursing training in Glasgow in 1999, before returning to the capital to develop her career in nursing.
Lynn has spent the last few years working as an advanced nurse practitioner with the South East Healthcare and Forensic Medical Services within NHS Lothian. She took the opportunity to study the PgCert Person-Centred Practice (Advanced Forensic Nursing Practice) at Queen Margaret University to enhance her professional practice and to be part of Scotland’s drive to develop a future workforce of sexual offence nurse examiners.
What attracted you to the course?
My role as an advanced nurse practitioner involves trauma-informed patient-centered care of individuals who have experienced sexual violence, and who require a forensic medical examination, either via police referral or self-referral via SARC (sexual assault response co-ordination service) and NHS 24. Undertaking the PgCert Advanced Forensic Nursing Practice course was the next step in my personal and professional academic journey.
The area of forensic medical services in under review in Scotland brought about the introduction of Forensic Medical Services Bill by Scottish Government, and the course was developed to enhance forensic trained nurses' skills, and potentially develop a future nursing workforce of sexual offence nurse examiners within Scotland.
What were the highlights of your course?
The forensic nursing profession can be quite an isolated area to work in, due to being such a specialised service. It can be difficult to engage and link with fellow professionals within this specialised field across Scotland’s large geographical area. Throughout this course, I, and my fellow student cohort, developed our own network to share good practice and reflective experiences, and to build a deep friendship while undertaking an emotionally challenging course in a highly specialised area.
What have you found most challenging?
Managing full-time employment as an advanced nurse practitioner, being a mother of two small children, while completing an emotionally and academically intensive postgraduate course is always going to be a challenge. However, my focus, passion and determination have helped me overcome these challenges.
How did you manage to juggle study with your current role?
Being an organised individual is essential. Having the support of the academic tutors, clinical mentors, fellow student cohort and wider colleagues to help supervise, support and guide me throughout my journey, has been a great help.
How do you feel that the course prepared you for your future role?
"The workforce for forensic medical services is evolving in Scotland with the focus on training and preparing sexual assault nurse examiners. I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have been amongst the first group of nurses from across Scotland to graduate from this course. Becoming an advanced forensic nursing practice graduate has enabled me to become involved in a ‘Test of Change’ service development review working jointly with the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian."
Was your learning experience enhanced by other students on your course?
Building a forensic nursing network has been the highlight of the course. Having a group of colleagues to share experiences and best practice has had a positive impact on my professional practice.
Did you retain your current working position while studying the course?
I continued to work in my normal position while studying the course, but NHS Lothian supported me throughout the duration of the postgraduate programme by allocating study time and acknowledging the commitment required throughout the year of the course. Within my workplace I was able to work closely with my allocated preceptor from the medical team to enhance the skills and knowledge that I gained on the course.
How has your university experience changed things for you?
I have always been committed to personal development in my career, and QMU has helped facilitate this. I have completed my advanced nursing practice and now the advanced forensic practice course. Nursing is an evolving profession and continued professional development is essential to my development and to improve my professional practice. Completion of the course has enabled me to be involved in the Test of change pilot with Scottish Government and NHS Lothian service development pilot to be the lead examiner in sexual assault examination cases.
How did you find the support from QMU staff?
The lecturers at QMU were integral in my completion of the course, their guidance and dedication supported me through my journey in the advanced forensic practice course.
What has the course equipped you to do that you could not do in your role before?
I am now qualified to be the lead examiner in sexual assault examination cases. I have been part of the South East Forensic Medical Services for over 10 years and have been fortunate to see it develop and flourish in its person-centered care for people who have experienced sexual violence. The service in continually changing and I hope my role in the future will be one of the first sexual assault nurse examiners in Scotland, once Scottish law has been changed following a successful test of change service development.
What difference has studying the course made to your career prospects?
Completion the course has allowed me to be involved in service development in NHS Lothian working alongside the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the Crown Prosecution Service, piloting sexual assault nurse examiners.
NOTE: The postgraduate course for nurse sexual offence examiners at Queen Margaret University is the first qualification of its kind in Scotland and is paving the way for the first nurses to undertake the role of sexual offence examiner in the future.