Sophie's Story

Sophie Stenson - Nutricia portrait

Behind every one of our nutritional solutions there is a dedicated team of people whose mission it is to make the lives of patients and healthcare professionals, easier. #NutriciaLife

Sophie Stenson is a Clinical Practice Manager at Nutricia. In the run up to International Nurses’ Day, we spoke to Sophie about how she started at Nutricia, her day-to-day role as Clinical Practice Manager, and winning an award from the British Journal of Nursing.

My first proper job was in an office, setting up private health insurance for Norwich Union Healthcare, which is now Aviva. That was between the ages of 17 and 20, and then I had my daughter and started training as a nurse. At the same time, I was working as an auxiliary nurse. My first qualified nurse role was on a major colorectal ward, and then I worked in the ICU for a short while. After that, I came to Nutricia - and I’ve been here for just over 11 years, which is a lot longer than I’ve worked anywhere else!

My job is different every day - partly because I’m involved in lots of things besides nursing in my role. As a manager, I speak to my team every day, and try to meet with them at least once a week for a catch-up on Microsoft Teams. There’s a lot of computer-based admin work for managers - for example filling out reports, audits and other things on the computer - but generally my job is keeping customers happy and helping my team to manage their work when needed. But they certainly don’t need micromanaging, and will usually just get on with things!

On top of the day-to-day running of my team, I also spend a lot of time doing bits and pieces to develop and promote our nursing service. So, for example, I write a lot of articles - in fact I’ve just finished one that has been published in the British Journal of Community Nursing this month. On top of that I spend two days a week helping with the Quality Team, which is something that goes towards my development - that’s one of the great things about working for Nutricia; if there’s a particular way you want to develop your skills, Nutricia will support that. So one of the other nurses steps up to do my role for two days, while I’m away helping the Quality Team.

A major part of my job is looking at sustainability - I’m all over sustainability! The biggest issue for Nutricia nurses - and nurses in general, really - is the waste or overuse of medical plastic. We’ve been working with NHS England to explore how we can reduce enteral plastics and review the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines. So that might involve looking at whether a syringe is single-use, or if it could potentially be reused - perhaps changing the guidelines so that we use seven-day syringes where possible and not single-use ones. 

In my area, we have a large number of paediatric patients, and a lot of them were using single-use containers for enteral feeding. Feed decanted into these containers can only be used for four hours, and the containers then need to be thrown away. Some patients need a single-use container because they’re immunocompromised, but many of them actually don’t. So my paediatric nurses and I set up a scheme in our Sheffield practice where the dietitians worked out which patients needed a single-use container and which didn’t. For the patients that could transition to a reusable container, we wrote a letter and sent it to all their parents and caregivers giving them two months' notice and informing them of the date we wanted to switch their child onto containers that would be reused for 30 days. We offered them the option to contact us if they didn’t want their child to switch to a reusable container - and nobody contacted us to ask not to use it. Instead we had people ringing up and asking “Why do we have to wait two months? Why can’t we have this now?” All together well over 100 patients switched to reusable containers, and we’ve prevented a lot of plastic and landfill waste just by doing that. 

Another big sustainability factor for Nutricia is the amount of driving we do out in the community - especially now that we’re in a post-COVID world where a lot of the things can now be done virtually. So, for example, two of my nurses have now set up virtual training sessions, where once a month they host a morning and afternoon session, and both new starters, and those needing refresher training from each of the care agencies will be booked in for training. Sometimes we have up to 70 people on these virtual sessions. Before we were able to do this virtually, we would have to take maybe ten trips to ten different care agencies, sometimes returning multiple times so that you could also train the people you’d missed the first time round because they’re on different shift patterns. That’s an awful lot of driving that we’ve cut out - and that’s just one example of how we’ve been rethinking things.

I recently won the British Journal of Nursing Award for Nutrition Nurse of the Year, and I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet. I get a little bit shy about it, but it’s quite a big deal I suppose! My application included a lot of information about how I share knowledge with other nutrition nurses, the virtual training we do and how much we’ve saved on fuel emissions and our carbon footprint. I supported my nurses with presenting these findings at BAPEN last year and sharing the learnings. Also included was an article I wrote for the British Journal of Community Nursing about tube displacements, and an account of how my nursing service in Sheffield has grown and expanded to a seven-day service - which has had a huge impact in preventing patients from going to hospital over the weekend. Receiving an award in recognition of all these different aspects of my work has made me feel very appreciated, and I really feel awards could play a big part in inspiring the next generation of nurses. I just hope people are aware that these things are available to them; you've got to take the initiative to find out what awards are available and apply for them.

As a nurse, the most rewarding part of my work is seeing somebody go from being completely terrified of having an enteral feeding tube to being fully independent. I love being able to see people grow in confidence - whether that be the patients or my staff. The nurse who is now stepping up to support me two days a week wouldn’t have been able to do that a year ago, but I’ve seen her confidence grow and her skills develop, and I know she’s going to make a great manager one day. The other part of my work that I love is writing the articles and seeing them published.  I realised I have a passion for research whilst completing my master’s degree in Psychology in 2022, something that Nutricia supported me through and I feel this support allowed me space, flexibility and ability to achieve a distinction in my masters. Since recognising this passion, Nutricia has enabled me to embed this into my role by publishing the amazing work our Nursing Service does. 

In light of International Nurses’ Day, I’d really love more people to realise just how much nurses are at the forefront of everything that happens in healthcare, and to ensure that our voices are always heard as loudly as possible. It’s when we’re able to share and develop our ideas, our experience and our knowledge that we perform at the highest level - and I’m tremendously proud that Nutricia gives us all the support we need to do precisely that.