I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, because of my family and experiences. My mum was a nurse, my sister was a nurse, my grandma was a nurse - and my dad was an ambulance driver! I lost quite a few family members when I was young, so I really wanted to make a difference and get out there to help people who were struggling. Now my daughter is training to be a nurse as well.
I started my NHS career in 1985 as a healthcare assistant in the field of elderly care. I worked in that role for 10 years before transferring to paediatrics in the NHS, I was seconded to do my training and qualified as a nurse in 2004. Since then I have worked on acute wards and in the community as a paediatric nurse.
A former colleague became a Homeward Paediatric Nurse and everything I heard about it made me think it would be a lovely role; being able to go out and see children that are being tube-fed, and helping their families and supporting them. Then, five years ago, an advert for the role popped up out of the blue - so I applied, interviewed and got the job. The rest is history!
As a Homeward Paediatric Nurse, what’s really significant is the amount of time you’re able to spend with your patients. I can see them before they’ve had their tubes placed, I can go out afterwards to see how they’re getting on, and I can go and see them as often as needed just to give them any information and reassurance they might need. It feels really wonderful to have the ability to have such a positive impact on patients. In previous roles, I’ve often felt like I’ve been clock-watching, and although we’re busy at Nutricia, I always feel like we have more scope to make a difference for our patients - and that makes a huge difference to me as well.
It’s very satisfying to know that you have built up a bond with families. A lot of my patients call me ‘Silly Sally,’ which is a nickname I was given by a patient many years ago and it has stuck because the children like it and it helps break down barriers, and I don’t mind being a bit silly sometimes, especially if it distracts from a stressful time.
Parents always know that even if I can’t physically be with them at a particular moment, they can always give me a ring and I can help them over the phone - and if I can’t, I can usually ask someone else on the team to go out and see them. These families have so much going on that something simple going wrong can just floor their day - and if I can be on hand to sort it out they don’t have to worry about it, that makes a big difference. Sometimes it’s just a bit of reassurance they need. They might call up and say “Sally, I’m worried this pump is doing something wrong,” or “I’m not sure if I’ve given enough nutrition.” They might need a little bit of advice, or they might just need to be told that everything is absolutely fine. But as a parent, your anxiety is dialled right up, and sometimes you just need somebody to tell you that it’s absolutely fine, you’re doing a really good job: just keep going.
One of the great things about working for Nutricia is that even though you’re working on your own out in the community, the teamwork is absolutely amazing - second to none. I always feel like I’ve got plenty of support, and there are always people I can turn to if I need help. If I’m short of time I know one of the other team members will always step in and make sure a patient visit or call happens, it’s all about putting our patients first.
Working for Nutricia has opened up so many opportunities for me to do various projects, working in different areas of the country and meeting people at conferences. You’re really encouraged to better yourself and find new ways to make an impact.
We also support healthcare professionals in a lot of ways, working very closely with Dietitians, Consultants and ward staff. A Dietitian might phone me up with queries about different tubes; perhaps they’re not sure what combinations of equipment to use, or how many a patient might need. I can usually answer those questions for them. They might also phone me and ask me to go and see a patient at home if they’re having problems, or to see a patient on the ward and do some training if they’re preparing for discharge. I’ll go into clinics with a Dietitian so that we can both review a patient at the same time, rather than the patient having to see us both separately. I also provide training for Dietitians and student nurses, so that they too are able to look after feeding pumps and tubes and spot any problems. It’s just a case of supporting each other, so we can all work together to make things easier for patients.
This International Nurses Day, it’s really important that we give nurses a voice and listen to them. They have an absolute wealth of knowledge, they are the ones dealing with everything on the ground, and they know what is good for and will make a difference to patients. We get to know our patients and develop a sense for anything that might be going wrong; you can pick up on things that nobody else will. So, yes: listen to the nurses. Give them that voice and the ability to take action - because they have the knowledge to back it up.
At Nutricia, everyone prides themselves on making a difference; I haven’t come across anyone that doesn’t feel that way. Having worked in several different areas of the NHS, I know people sometimes feel tired, worn out or unappreciated. But here, you always feel appreciated and that makes a huge difference to your outlook. Quite often you get a call from a manager thanking you for doing a superb job, and you feel recognised. Sometimes a thank you is all you need to make your day even better.