Dr Nicky Asbury 1964-2016

An appreciation from her colleagues.

On 1 July 2016 Nicky Asbury died peacefully at home surrounded by her close family.  She was diagnosed in June 2015 with a rare and aggressive form of cancer that proved to be stubbornly resistant to many surgeries and chemotherapy.

Nicky qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1990 and worked for much of her career at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Nicky quickly gained a reputation as a highly skilled clinician with a passion for gender issues and a growing expertise in working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. 

Nicky went on to develop a number of services within the specialism of clinical health psychology. She pioneered a women’s health service and researched the experience of urinary incontinence in women, co-authoring a book entitled Only When I Laugh. Over the last 10 years Nicky applied her skill for service development to establishing a thriving Psycho-Oncology Service. She had a particular interest in the needs of children with a parent with a life-limiting diagnosis and published in this area with a focus on the conversations that enable children to process this loss. Nicky ultimately had to have these conversations with her own children, although that did not make the task for her any easier when she faced the same situation.

Throughout her career Nicky supervised and facilitated the development of many trainee clinical psychologists. Nicky provided a contained and supervisee centric space in which to explore complex clinical work. She was exceptional at focusing entirely on the person she was supervising and facilitating their own individualised development.

Nicky’s talents extended beyond psychology, she was also a natural-born leader who effortlessly inspired everyone she came into contact with. She possessed a rare set of leadership ingredients in healthcare that were hard not to sit up and take notice of: her vitality and can-do spirit, pragmatic, agile and forward-thinking mind, and drive to make a difference set her apart. She was passionate to put psychological support at the centre of cancer care for families, and was looked up to as a motivational leader not only by the health psychology team, but also within the wider Clinical Support Directorate. Nicky was often was seen to go above and beyond providing multiprofessional team development and supervision sessions for her Oncology colleagues to help them deal with difficult cases and process loss within their own team. She leaves a huge void at Northumbria Healthcare, felt by patients, senior managers and her fellow psychologists alike.

Outside of work one word represents Nicky: family. She loved nothing more than spending time with her husband and her three sons. Rugby and cricket were their sports and she spent a great many Saturdays and Sundays cheering and supporting them from the sidelines. Nicky was very much an outdoors person herself and loved to go on long walks along the Northumberland coast and countryside with her family and friends.

However, Nicky’s own passion was running. She became firm friends with colleague Irene and they started running together from 1996. Sometimes during lunchtimes at work, but when more serious training was required at weekends or evenings in the summer. She ran many races across the Northeast ranging from 5 km up to half marathon events. She loved taking part in the Great North Run (sometimes even in a pink tutu for charity). After attending a running training camp in Portugal she was persuaded that running a marathon was the next goal. This was achieved in 2010 when she completed the Amsterdam Marathon, which she was extremely proud of. She had many pastimes and was always looking for her next challenge. Cycling the C2C was one of them (two women by themselves riding bikes over the Pennines in pouring rain is so much fun!).

Alongside being an outstanding psychologist, she had a tremendous passion and energy for life, which she lived to the full. Nicky was one of the kindest, most intelligent and caring women around. She was there for everyone whether that be family, friend, colleague or patient, and she touched the lives of everyone she came in contact with. She will be greatly missed for her authenticity, compassion, wisdom and of course her great sense of humour.  

Her friends and family are raising money to research the rare leiomyosarcoma of the uterus that took her life. Many patients have paid tribute to her on the webpage and donations can be made at: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/nickyasbury

Nicky leaves her husband, Mark Welfare, and her three boys, Jake, Isaac and Lucas.

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