Here we feature some of the faces you’ll see around Harvest City Church and dig a bit deeper into who they are and how they live for Christ in their daily lives.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have been blessed with two wonderful children: Mersades (16) and Micah (8), and I’ve been a partner at Harvest City Church for years just over 5 years. I am the Head of Healthcare at HMYOI (Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute) Glen Parva.
What sort of things does your job entail?
As Head of Healthcare I am responsible for the provision of a community-based model of healthcare within the prison. I have management responsibility for a 36-strong nursing team which includes both mental health and general nurses, and contractual responsibility for GPs and other allied health professionals (dentists, optometrists, podiatrists, physiotherapists, etc.).
A typical week involves a catch-up with my healthcare managers followed by liaison meetings with the prison governor, commissioners and the wider trust; report writing and presentations, teaching/training, attending patient forums, finance approval, complaint resolution, analysing audits and making service improvements based on results and dealing with staffing issues of various degrees. I have much less patient contact in this role but my job enables me to ensure that the patients under my care receive a quality service.
It’s challenging, but thoroughly enjoyable!
How did you come to work in mental health and what appealed to you about working in a prison?
My first placement in a mental health forensic setting as a student cemented my passion for working with patients with a mental ill health diagnosis. I absolutely enjoyed the challenging environment and the rewards it brought. Since then my perspectives have changed and I believe that in order to effect change on a bigger scale I cannot do so without progressing up the career ladder. As a healthcare professional, I believe that there should be equity of service provision for all, even those who have committed offences.
The order and security of the physical environment within a prison appeals to me and my need to have some control over things. I also enjoy working with the various disciplines within healthcare that my role allows.
Some people disagree with prisoners receiving help because of the crimes they have committed. Why do you think their health and well being is important?
Prison isn’t a ‘bed of roses’ and, as a healthcare professional, punishment isn’t my area; that was dealt with by the courts, hence them being in a place like Glen Parva. Prisoners are human beings and someone’s daughter, son, sister, brother… There is also lots of evidence that suggest that poor health outcomes contribute to criminal activity and improving these outcomes has a positive effect on crime reduction.
We don’t just attend to the physical needs of prisoners. Lots of time is spent by the mental health and substance misuse team around reducing re-offending behaviour, self-esteem work, managing substance misuse, etc., which also impacts positively on prisoners’ re-offending behaviour.
Do you ever find it challenging to interact with prisoners knowing their crimes and what they have been convicted of?
I sometimes have to be aware of a patient’s crime for safety reasons and purposes of risk assessments; apart from that I tend not to focus on their crimes and deal with the individual in front of me. This, I learnt early on in my career, enables me to make a non-prejudiced first contact.
Without doubt, the crimes committed by some patients have an emotional effect on me as a female and a parent; however this has to be put aside if I am to deliver the best care possible to the patient.
I also keep in mind (not naïvely!) that in the Bible there were great characters imprisoned and charged with crimes they did not commit.
Lastly, do you think being a Christian impacts your performance at work?
Absolutely! I strive to be the best that I can be for ‘we are the head and not the tail’ and it’s important to me that I am a productive employee. Being a Christian helps me maintain perspective and a strong sense of compassion which is essential when dealing with both patients and staff. Attending church and being a productive member within the church community also helps me maintain my focus and drive at work.
Natasha is Head of Healthcare at HMYOI Glen Parva and serves in multiple roles in the church, including as a JC teacher and as part of the welcome team.