Linda Tolmie is in her seventh year as Lead Nurse at Harrow School. A nurse for 23 years, Linda has also worked as an A&E nurse, at NHS Direct and as a medical advisor for an insurance company.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
For as long as I can remember, I have loved hospitals, I know that sounds strange. I love the smell of them and was always really interested in the human body and used to buy anatomy books. I think that feeling of nursing being a vocation is felt much less so among nurses now as the training has become more academic.
How do you start your day every morning?
The clinic starts at 7:30am and runs until 9am so we do all our clinical work then. We do our admin and care planning work and then have a break at 11am.
How did you relax and unwind after a day at work?
I like socializing with friends and going to the theatre and having meals out. I don’t do as much hobbies as I would like to as this job does demand a lot of your time.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Working with the teenage group is really fun. A lot of people can’t imagine how I could put up with them but I think the boys are a misunderstood bunch really. I had a difficult time when I was a teenager and I think it is just lovely to think you could be somebody that they could come to. Barely a day goes by where I don’t laugh. Sometimes, when I’m having a horrible day and things are going wrong – something they say will be hilarious or it’ll make me smile all day long. It is an uplifting place to work.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
It can be difficult to manage communication between all the different parties sometimes. There are the GPs, physiotherapists, the matrons, the house master, the teachers, pharmacists and the outside agencies, such as the local Trust and health authorities – sometimes it can be a real juggling act. Everyone is here for the well-being of the boys but everyone has their own agenda as well. It is very challenging to get the communication right and to make sure it is balanced and everyone is happy.
Do you think the administration burden on nurses is excessive?
I definitely think so in the NHS. Sometimes I have done agency work in private hospitals and even there the paperwork is just ridiculous. I have cut the admin burden down since I have become lead nurse and we do a lot of it on the computer. I think a lot of it is litigation reasons but has become just ridiculous.
Do you get enough face-to-face time with patients?
Yes I do. I probably do one admin day a fortnight but if it is quiet, I’ll sneak down to the office and do a couple of hours – so it is very opportunistic sometimes. I also have a lot of meetings to go to so it is a bit of a juggling act.
Do you think nursing is a more or less respected profession than it was in the past?
Sadly I think so. I think a lot of bad press coverage and the problems that come out of poor staffing levels make nurses look like they don’t care.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I do feel settled [at Harrow School]. I can’t see me leaving. This is a good school to work for, as a lot of schools don’t have the services we have – so we are lucky in that respect. I may leave to go to another boarding school but I think I have found my niche.
Are you surprised by how much you get done in a day?
I used to do 24-hour shifts, which sounds horrendous - but you do used to sleep overnight. My hours now is 7:30am to 3:30am but I do take one overnight shift a week and sometimes I do an 8am – 8pm shift. I tend to take what needs filling because I feel I should because I am in charge. We don’t have set rotas, it is as demand needs it and it is always changing. There may be a day when there are a lot of visiting schools and we need a lot of staff. It is an ever-changing environment so we don’t have set shifts.
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The Nursing in Practice's Nurse of the Week is run as part of NiP's RESPECT campaign to raise the profile of primary and community nurses.
Louise Naughton is a writer and journalist specialising in healthcare.
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