Staff Choice Awards 2018/19
Emerging Talent Award (Clinical)

Helen Nicolls

Has been shortlisted for this award

Job title
Assistant Psychologist 
Churchill Ward, Fermoy Unit 
King’s Lynn 

The nomination said...

Helen joined us in December 2017 as Assistant Psychologist on Churchill Ward – her first job on the ladder towards training as a Clinical Psychologist. She has really grown in this role. In her calm and gentle way, she has brought daily mindfulness exercises to service users, and led the staff team in developing Positive Behaviour Support Plans to support service users through their mental health crises. She always has a ready smile, builds up good relationships with service users, is valued by her colleagues, and enthusiastically takes on board guidance and advice.

What has been particularly impressive is her contribution to the new build inpatient project in King’s Lynn. She took forward a request to review the literature on psychologically informed environments, so the project team could incorporate these principles into the new ward building. She produced a thorough distillation of the literature on what helps service users to remain calm and orientated and reduce confusion and distress. What was particularly impressive was the way she was able to pick out clear, practical and affordable suggestions for how this could apply to the new ward, with suggestions about colour, texture and sound. She indicated from the evidence base how this could impact positively on service users, by improving way-finding and orientation, reducing hypervigilance in those with trauma symptoms, and reducing the need for restraint through use of multi-sensory materials.

She had the sensitivity and respect to organise a focus group on the ward to gain service users’ feedback on ways to make the ward less institutional, more therapeutic and easier to navigate, and used their comments to refine the recommendations.

The recommendations are now being adopted, and the work she has started will have a lasting impact on the new Samphire Ward, making a positive difference to service users admitted in crisis for years to come.

Helen’s really impressive qualities are that, without trumpet or fanfare, in a gentle and understated way, she can produce an outstanding piece of intelligent but practical work. In this project, she combined being thorough and rigorous in relation to the evidence base, with being practical, relevant and co-produced. She was able to do this in a timely way, and she was able to present the findings in appropriate ways to both service users and senior managers. This should stand her in very good stead as she works towards her chosen career of clinical psychology, and a promise of making a very positive contribution to mental health.