A pioneering Doncaster nurse is breaking new ground as the first at her Trust to be qualified to take on care duties normally managed by a consultant psychiatrist.

Jo Nicholls, a nurse consultant at Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH), is a pathfinder for mental health nurses after completing a period of continuous assessment to become a coveted non-medical Approved Clinician.

Jo’s new status, which was ratified by the North of England Approval Panel on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, means she is now authorised to care for patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983.

It marks the successful end to two years of study for Jo, who joined the NHS in 1992 at the then Doncaster Royal Infirmary School of Nursing, followed by undertaking increasingly responsible mental health roles in hospital and community settings until being appointed a nurse consultant at RDaSH six years ago. Since 2020 she has been based at Windermere Lodge, an assessment and treatment centre for people with memory difficulties or dementia, at the Trust’s Tickhill Road site in Balby, Doncaster.

Jo said: “This is the biggest achievement of my 30-year NHS career. My main drive has been to improve patient care and extend the role of the nursing profession, proving to myself that if you are determined enough you can succeed at anything.

“Hopefully I’ve shown there isn’t a glass ceiling and have now opened the door for other nurses to follow and progress their own clinical careers.”

Impressively, Jo has reached this new career high whilst also studying for a Post Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Law at Northumbria University and a Master of Arts degree in Healthcare Ethics and Law at The University of Manchester.

RDaSH Associate Medical Director and Consultant Psychiatrist Dr John Bottomley, who has mentored Jo on her journey, said: “Jo is a trailblazer in that she can now carry out the care duties of a consultant psychiatrist on a ward. Her devotion to continuous personal development is amazing as the bar is set very high to achieve this clinical status.

“Jo has changed much of our clinical practice as a result of what she has learned through her studies and she routinely shares her knowledge with teams across the organisation to improve patient care.”