Following a four month return-to- practice course, Siobhan returned to frontline nursing last year after a 23-year break. She works two days a month in an acute setting in her own time and using NHS England volunteer days. Here she explains why she decided to return:
So why am I writing this blog? – To share my clinical experiences with you in the hope it will help you in your work, and also to encourage those of you that have been thinking of going back into a front-line nursing role.
Why did I decide become a nurse again? – There were three reasons:
First, the time felt right for me to become a front-line nurse again as I realised nursing is such a rewarding profession.
Second, as a NHS Manager it felt like I was writing guidance and policies, but I did not ‘truly’ know what it was like for staff and patients that my work impacted on. That was making me ‘feel ethically uncomfortable’.
Finally, I was keen to share my insights from my clinical work with my NHS England colleagues.
Practising as a nurse 23 years ago had its own pressures, some of which brought me to the conclusion that I wanted to move away from it.
One of the situations that made me felt this way was because of an experience I had of working on my last acute ward. A woman had been admitted for overdosing on tablets. While talking to her I found out that she had been raped and had taken tablets because the men who had been convicted were appealing against their sentence and she was worried that they would be released.
When I handed the patient over to my colleagues they did not seem interested in her reason for taking an overdose, and she was discharged after a quick psychiatric assessment. I realised that this was not enough, and maybe nursing did not meet the ethical or value behaviours that I considered key to deliver a first class service to patients.
So, 23 years later, and after a four month back to nursing course the questions are:
‘Is nursing any different now than it was 23 years ago’ and ‘how can we use front-line experiences to make us better Managers?’
What did I find? It appears to me that patients still want the same things: to be listened to, empathy and to be seen as individuals. Recently during my clinical work there were two experiences that re-affirmed this to me.
The first was the comment I heard from some relatives: “The fact that the nurse smiled made all the difference to us …it made us feel like they would look after our …….well.”
It was wonderful to see the big smile on the nurse’s face when I relayed this back to her. The fact she had spoken to them, actively listened to their issues and seen them as individuals made all the difference to the patient and relatives.
The other was my own experience. Whilst showering a patient I learnt all about her life, her illness, her family and that we had many things in common with each other. When I saw her relatives I knew straight away who they were and had an instant rapport with them.
I am not saying all managers need to become front-line practitioners, but all of us working in the NHS and Social Care can ask ourselves how we make a difference to the standard of care provided to all those that interact with the NHS on a daily basis. It might be how we respect and listen to fellow staff, or how we seek to ensure we are making a difference to patients during policy discussions, or how we make links with services we commission.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my experiences. This blog is not about telling you what you must do, but is JUST about sharing my experience with YOU. I would be happy to hear your comments and any reflections you have about my comments.
She has previously worked for Leeds Community Health NHS Trust; Yorkshire and Humber SHA, Leeds PCT; ran a community health development charity in Leeds for five years; worked in local government homelessness hostels; a domestic violence department and the private sector.
Siobhan left nursing in 1991.
Her career highlights include setting up a new domestic violence organisation that still runs today.
She has also implemented a patient experience and engagement assurance framework across 65 services.
Other highlights include successfully managing a £500,000 friends and family pathfinder programme of work in a region and successfully producing a nutrition and hydration commissioning guidance document with a group of national experts, CCG commissioners and NHS Colleagues whom were a fragmented group with different opinions and are now working successfully together to make major changes to commissioning.