Joanna Elliott, Head of Occupational Health

What made you apply for this job?

You could say I was born into the workplace as my mother opened a family-run hardware shop when I was born! I learned a lot from customers, suppliers and family and, as that was some time ago, I also learned that there was little support for workers and small businesses when illness or injury occurred.

Alongside this I volunteered with St John Ambulance. This helped to determine my career pathway in nursing.  I had always sought to work In Occupational Health and was very fortunate to start my Occupational Health career in the health and social care system in Northern Ireland.

Some fantastic ward-based physiotherapists worked with me to devise a safe system of work for manual handling on general wards in the Royal Victoria Hospital before I took up a post in Occupational Health

What is your previous experience?

I have worked in Occupational Health and across several sectors in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. I have also had the opportunity to work in UK Logistics, Justice and health and social care.

I’ve benefitted from working nationally and locally with really good colleagues and forums through various organisations including the Royal College of Nursing, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and Occupational Health Nurse Advisors to the Police Service (OHNAPS) After 39 years in nursing, most of which has been spent in Occupational Health, and a wee bit of life experience I hoped I would be able for this post!

Tell us a little about you personally

Born, bred and educated in Belfast.  Married with  two adult children and one golden retriever.  Three members of my family members are employed in health and social care in Northern Ireland so we have a lot invested in health and social care.

How important do you think Occupational Health is to support staff morale and wellbeing?

First and foremost, staff can feel safer and enabled by having Occupational Health services and support in their workplace. Occupational Health has also become more prominent due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  In my experience, it has been intrinsic to nursing and workplace health from the industrial revolution when philanthropists employed nurses to support workers, their families and communities, to the first second and subsequent world wars.

Contemporary Occupational Health is often delivered by multidisciplinary teams who aim to prevent illness and improve health and wellbeing with recruitment assessment adjustments, fitness for work assessment advice, psychological and physical support, health surveillance and immunisation to mention but a few activities.

Best book you have ever read and why?

American author John Steinbeck’s Red Pony got me reading literature.   My sister was a chief librarian so I’m embarrassed to say that most reading has been for work for the last 18 months.  I’ve good intentions to do more leisure reading now I am in Scotland.

Which person or character would you most like to meet and what would you discuss?

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth 2nd and talk about her best memories

Most treasured and worst memories?

The best is the births of my children and the worst was breaking bad news to my niece after a three-day search with family and emergency services for my young nephew aged 14 who accidentally drowned in a river in Northern Ireland in 2009 whilst trying to save a friend’s dog.

What would you tell your 16 year old self?

Believe in yourself, take time to learn and grow and enjoy it.

Long holiday anywhere in the world – where would you choose and why?

Canada. Two really enjoyable holidays to date. There is so much more to see!!!.

Signature dish?

The occasional Ulster fry – did I actually say that?? Ulster fry is a heart attack on a plate;

fried soda bread, fried potato bread ( colloquial term is fadge) fried eggs, fried smoked bacon, fried link beef or pork sausages, fried tomatoes, fried black pudding and button mushrooms.

Plans for Christmas?

Covid-19 allowing – I’d like to spend time with family, friends and our golden retriever Mac

On your list to Santa?

A good pair of boots to see me through a Scottish winter!!