I have started 2016 in a place I never thought I would find myself – on the New Year’s Honours list having been awarded an MBE for Services to Nursing. Amazing!
So how does a nurse working in General Practice find herself in this position? We all hear of sportsmen and soap stars receiving such titles but nurses doing their day job?
I started my nursing career aged 16 as an enthusiastic but shy orthopaedic student nurse yet I was always the annoying one that asked why things were done that way and never accepted ‘because we’ve always done it that way’ as an answer. That never changed.
At 18 when I started my general nurse training in the 1980’s I questioned things even more – from why we had to tidy the ward and hide in the sluice when the consultant did his ward round to how each of us had to perform a task rather that look after the complete holistic needs of each patient on the ward.
Having qualified in 1986 I worked on a thoracic surgery ward for 18 months. Patients underwent major chest surgery yet came back to the ward immediately post surgery without even a brief stay in the high dependency unit (HDU).
Next was an 18 month stay on a paediatric plastic surgery and burns unit. Planned and direct admission, where lives of children and families changed dramatically for the better following corrective plastic surgery, or for the worse following often extensive burns and scalds. Here I learnt to go from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds – the pace often shifted very quickly.
A year in A&E followed – a love or hate situation and I just loved it. Unpredictable, fun and exciting. I learnt a host if new skills and honed my 0 to 60 manoeuvre down to 3 seconds.
Marriage, the birth of my first son and relocation led me to review lifestyle and career options and 25 years ago I moved to my present post in primary care. During that time the role has changed hugely. Having started as what was a task based position doing ‘as I was told’ again didn’t suit me. I was lucky enough to start in practice at the same time as Dr Mike Thomas who had a passion for respiratory care. He encouraged me to develop and step outside of the standard role taking on research and extending my skills in practice. At the same time practice nursing was developing as a career and I managed to expand my skills in many directions through appropriate training and experience in diabetes, triage and treatment of minor illness, extended formulary prescribing, and an MSc in respiratory care. During this time I was also busy keeping up to date with mandatory training such as safeguarding, infection control, the list as you all will know, is long and extensive. The challenge of fitting this all in cannot help but spill into one’s own time but that is a price I have always felt reasonable to pay. I also fitted in a second baby!
Outside of the day job I have been involved in many aspects of patient care too. I am actively involved in Primary Care Respiratory Society UK (PCRS UK) and have been nurse lead for some time as well as sitting on the Executive Committee and Education Committee. This involves working at a national level to improve aspects of patient care through policy, research and education. I am also proud to be a Queen’s Nurse – involvement with the QNI also offers the opportunity to be involved in national level policy decisions.
In my latest venture I have been appointed as an interim board director for the local GP federation. A call for applicants was made and I felt it vital nurses were represented as federation working may well influence how nurses practice.
All of the additional activity I have to find time for – it would be unreasonable to expect my employers to pay me not to be at work. Here with is the dilemma and the cost of always asking so many questions – I am not at home as often as I should be and when I am, I am often attached to the laptop.
When I found out I had been nominated and would receive the MBE for Services to Nursing – which includes what I have outlined here along with my teaching and mentoring commitments – it felt like the icing on the cake because doing the job each day is what makes it all worthwhile. But feeling appreciated is really special and the lovely messages of support from family, friends, colleagues and patients have been beyond fantastic.
Now to perfect my curtsey ready for the investiture, date yet to be announced, photographs to follow!
Carol Stonham is the expert blogger for the Nursing in Practice respiratory resource centre. She is a senior nurse practitioner working at Minchinhampton Surgery in Stroud, which is part of Goucestershire CCG. She has worked for many years as a practice nurse specialising in respiratory care and is also the nurse lead for the Primary Care Respiratory Society UK, a UK wide society for primary care health professionals keen to deliver high value patient-centred respiratory care.
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