Get to know our Nurses- Elaine Kirwan

As part of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020, we will be profiling some of our Nursing Team, and nurses and midwives from the Midlands region throughout the year.

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week, you can find out more about Elaine Kirwan, Deputy Chief Nurse for Mental Health Service at Birmingham Women and Children’s Hospital who has previously been nominated for awards for her work with Eating Disorder services.

On a typical day

My day starts at 6.30am. Usually a call from one of our amazing mental health nurses re escalation re on call issues, and perhaps a text usually from the lovely nurse Avella keeping me on my toes early riser she will give me the general temperature for how staff are feeling

Onwards its a day of meeting internal and external people, acting as representative for nurses within our mental health, but mostly demonstrating how we as a system work in partnership with a range of other professionals to break down barriers and come together to care for the young people of Birmingham. 

Tell us how you have made a difference as a nurse or midwife

I am a passionate advocate for all the young people of Birmingham and their families. I’m not afraid to challenge, I inspire and create space for staff to achieve their full potential, recognising talent and kindness in people.

Leading with the first youth expert by experience group and even larger clinical groups, we inspired and created a compelling vision to produce what is now the first 0-25 Mental Health Consortium model of care in England. After a difficult start this is becoming an innovative high-quality model of 0-25 mental health care. The model has a place in the NHS Long-Term Plan and is as exemplar of innovation and really something for our trust to celebrate.

What inspired you to go into nursing/midwifery? What would you say to a young person interested in a career in nursing & midwifery?

At school I was offered work experience placement in a Special school for children with moderate/ severe disability. I was fascinated by the staff’s ability to be inclusive; to have the care and compassion for ALL the children and families, many who were vulnerable and struggled to fit in with life, but here they were inspiring children and families to have hope.

It was here where I discovered my calling to Mental Health Nursing, I found myself moved by patient stories rooted in similar life experiences that had set me on my own path.

As I reflect, I look back at what motivates me and reinforces my genuine love of our NHS.

This was highlighted when a close relative passed away and more recently when my son was seriously ill requiring an operation it is this; highly skilled committed clinicians supported by effective leadership to do what they do best, giving both the gift of life and providing compassionate care at the end of life.

I would say to a young person interested in a career in nursing that I am just about the luckiest person in the world to get to do what I do! Care and compassion are two of the greatest gifts you can give…

To me nursing will be one of the most rewarding things you will do in your life – Be brave, because it can be tough be kind and courteous and be the best version of yourself  – Dream big! never stop learning there is a big wide world of opportunities in mental health and learning disability nursing  …and if you make a positive difference to just one person, then you have made it …and have some fun!

Are there any good nursing/midwifery projects/ innovations happening in your organisation or region that you’d like to share?

We are focusing on developing new nurse leaders within our workforce across all areas. Revisiting what it means to be a mental health and learning disability nurse in the new care models schools and communities, more research roles  –

We have programmes of training recognising talent amongst our nurses and developing a future workforce plan that provides opportunity for career progression, through both a clinical and research pathways.

We are embarking on a journey with New Care Models and Provider Collaberitives – this will really see a change in the way we integrate and work together for the greater good – our systems leadership will be challenged and we are working towards preparing new nurse leaders for this next chapter of the NHS Long Term Plan and mental health ambitions.

Did you train in another country or have you had any experience of nursing abroad?

I did not train in another country; however I did live and work in Canada for a period of time, working with mental health services it was a very precious time working across communities and new systems of nursing.

Have you won any awards or recognitions for your nursing or midwifery role?

I was nominated by patients and families for my work in Eating disorders ..that was a long time ago! I prefer to nominate!!

Tell us your funniest or amusing work-related story or anecdote / most memorable moment

Best presentation moment!

I was due to present at a very serious finance meeting lots of important people – it was on the same day as the day I meet all the nursing teams to give Christmas gifts and say thank you –now it is tradition and expectation that we dress in Christmas attire and we really go to town! Myself and colleague were running so late that I didn’t get time to change and had to rush to be there on time – I entered the room dressed as the most elaborate Christmas Elf with my colleague dressed as a Reindeer and a recording that we couldn’t switch off that sang jingle bells every time I moved whilst presenting!  Was mortified! Relationships allowed lots of smiles and a round of ‘jingle bells’ at the end And a business case approval!