Sarah New is the Deputy Clinical Lead at HM Prison & Young Offenders’ Institution Parc in Bridgend, South Wales.
In 2014, Sarah was awarded with a Butler Trust Award, which recognises good practice by people working in prisons, probation, and community and youth justice; the previous year, Sarah received a G4S Integrated Services Award for Recognition of Expertise. She graduated from USW's Bachelor of Nursing (Hons) Learning Disabilities in 2007.
“I started my career in 2003 as a support worker for Mencap then went onto working in a long stay hospital. I found the work very rewarding and loved to see these individual being supported to reach their potential.
While working in the long stay hospital, my son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and I became frustrated at the lack of service provision and support for both him and the family.
I wanted to make a difference so I decided to go back to college to gain the qualification to access nursing. I chose learning disability nursing as I felt this speciality could benefit not only people I worked with but my family as well.
I applied to work at Parc Prison because I needed a change as my heart has always been in rehabilitation and enhancing quality of life. Also, I wanted to educate others on understanding the needs of people with learning disabilities and the positive effect good communication can have.
I started work as a Staff Nurse and within two weeks was promoted to a Lead Nurse. I then began the enormous task of supporting people with both learning disabilities and difficulties within the prison.
At this time, there was no initial screening and no pathway of support for these individuals so they struggled to understand and adhere to rules, regimes which often resulted in periods of time in segregation or the safer custody unit if deemed vulnerable.
I have been lucky enough to have been part of a group that devised a process to ensure support from admission to discharge. What’s more, Learning Disability nurses have been recognised as a great asset to us and we currently have four in post.
In July 2014, I was promoted to Deputy Clinical Lead. My current role is heavily involved in supporting and developing staff, complaints and attending development meetings. However, wherever possible I still undertake medication rounds and attend medical emergencies to ensure I remain in contact with the offenders I chose to work with.
I love my job at Parc. It is very hard both physically and mentally- however, the constant rewards for both offenders and myself drive me to continue to care and support this group of individuals.
I think nurses in general are caring, respectful and have good listening skills, however, to work in a prison - especially at Parc - the nurse needs to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and learn new skills to support their speciality. For example, all our nurses are trained to undertake treatments and triage, engage in immunisations and vaccinations programmes and be confident and competent at life-threatening medical emergencies.
One of the things that I would like to see change is that RNLD are valued from the very start of their career in the student programme.
During my training, we were not treated with the same respect as the Adult and Mental Health Nurses. This appears to still be evident as I continue to hear students raise concerns around job opportunities and comments from fellow students.
I hope that through examples such as my own, the RNLD students recognise that there are opportunities out there where they can make such a difference to people’s lives."