FSRH Virtual 2020 from my kitchen - A real celebration of 2020 as the year of the nurse and midwife

Posted 21 Dec 2020

Date: 21 Dec 2020

Author: Polly Zipperlen

2020 – WHO International year of the nurse and midwife has perhaps not been celebrated as hoped. Likewise, November’s FSRH conference tendered a very different affair to the ‘Current Choices’ two-day event that has become a pinnacle of the professional Sexual Health calendar. Polly Zipperlen, Nurse-member of the FSRH Events Committee surprises herself with how much cause for celebration 2020 offers as she recalls FSRH Virtual 2020.

I was excited but apprehensive at a proposed Nurse-focus for FSRH Virtual, recognising 2020 as Year of the Nurse and Midwife. As a committed cynic, I often ruminate over the persistent incongruity that ranks nursing as a profession, yet confines it to the lower professional-echelons; the first to have a 10-year pay-freeze; the first to be redeployed in COVID-19. The very notion of having a celebratory year of Nurses, to my mind questions its professional status.

But…it is always pleasurable to be proved wrong. Nursing and midwifery contribution to SRH suffused FSRH Virtual, evident in both speakers and content and showcasing FSRH’s commitment to inclusion and diversity.

Rianna Raymond-Williams, Health Advisor and Social Influencer in East London, kicked-off with how to engage BAME communities in sexual health, highlighting the need for training among youth workers in engaging vulnerable young people in conversations about healthy-sex. Social influence was echoed, albeit more formally by Cecilia Akrisie Anim CBE former president of the RCN, who spotlighted the chasm between nursing value and pay as one of the RCN’s priorities for lobbying Government. She particularly decried the paucity of basic employment rights among social-care staff on zero-hour contracts.

I was pleased to be chairing the Q&A following case presentations by Lesley Copeland, Lead Midwife for post-natal care in Leeds and Emma Collis, SRH Nurse Consultant in Plymouth. Both explored the complex nursing response demanded by the pandemic with illustrations of the provision of post-natal LARC and virtual consultations to under 18s.

The acceleration of remote SRH using digital and mobile platforms formed a ‘buzzing focus’ to many of the talks throughout the congress which was laced with examples of how the pandemic has actuated an explosion of innovation and creativity. But enthusiasm for technological progress was tempered by words of caution from Edward Morris, President of RCOG. Inequitable access to mobile and digital technology among under 18s and other vulnerable populations is one of the concerns raised in the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health’s paper ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Rights: Strengthening access to Contraception Beyond the Pandemic’. 

From the opening speech by FSRH President Asha Kasliwal, highlighting the positive changes that have emerged from the rapid demand in remote care, FSRH Virtual was infused with ‘possibility’. The possibility to innovate, the possibility to engage and the possibility to thrive. With the possibility for nurses and midwives to be at the heart of SRH, not only at the coalface of care, but in the development and innovation of services. Indeed, it gave me great satisfaction during the closing ceremony by Helen Munro, FSRH Vice President for Membership, to hear that my own colleague, SRH Nurse Debbie Harris won third prize in the Oral Presentations for her contribution to establishing a postal STI service during the pandemic.

FSRH Virtual 2020 not only showcased SRH service innovation but epitomised a true celebration of the flexibility of SRH staff. I still have some doubts about the integrity of a celebratory year for Nursing and Midwifery, but am left in no doubt about the value of SRH Nurses or indeed their place at the core of the FSRH.

Catch up and watch all of the sessions on-demand until February 18 2021.