This site is intended for health professionals only

Nurse profile: Rugby club nurse

Lisa Eve
Rugby Club Nurse
Old Whitgiftian Rugby Club, Croydon
Clinical Services Director/Specialist Nurse, GP Practice, Surrey

What is your background in the NHS?
I started in 1974 as a cadet nurse before my nurse training. I trained in Gloucestershire and worked as a nurse for 18 months before completing my midwifery training at Cheltenham Maternity Hospital. I then moved to Guy's Hospital on the renal ward and did my theatre training there. After that I went to St George's as a research sister and then did health visitor training in Croydon. I became a practice nurse in 1992 and in 1997 I started teaching medical students at Guy's King's and St Thomas's Hospital as part of a GP teaching team. I worked for an SHA as a non-medical prescribing lead and then got a position within in the Department of Health as prescribing lead for southeast England. All the while I continued working as a practice nurse one day a week.

How much of your time is spent with the rugby team?
I spend alternate Saturdays with them during the rugby season, managing them when they play home matches, dealing with minor to more serious injuries.

Why did you decide to take up the role?
My son played for a rugby club and they didn't have anyone trained to deal with injuries so I would often be called onto the pitch to give advice or stay with someone if an ambulance needed to be called. I was asked to cover matches for the Old Whitgiftian rugby club, did two sessions helping and then was asked to be regular medical cover for the second team, and also for the first team when the physiotherapist was unavailable. I completed a Rugby Football Union (RFU) accredited rugby sports injury course and have been doing it ever since.

Are there any particular skills you need?
A lot of the skills I need are those I use in general practice. My day job involves working at a busy surgery where I manage the urgent care clinics. Anyone can walk in with cuts, sprains or strains when they don't want to go to A&E and those skills are mirrored in my work with the rugby team. I think you have to enjoy rugby and be a confident nurse; have a sense of humour and a bit mad to be stuck with a team of muddy, smelly men on a Saturday afternoon!

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I hope no one gets injured but it's satisfying to run on and help someone if they are. If they need to go to hospital I can be with them until the response team turns up and that's a nice part of the work. One player had a fractured ankle, and you could hear from the screams on the pitch that it wasn't pleasant; but he was so calm that the emergency response team questioned whether or not he actually had a fracture at all. When he got to the hospital it turned out that it was quite a serious fracture that needed surgery. It was nice to be a part of that and to help him stay as relaxed as possible and in as little pain as possible. The lads are like a family to me, we know each other well and some of them could be my sons or younger brothers.

What do you enjoy least?
I do worry about being sued if I don't treat something properly, so I keep a book and write everything down. In the beginning I used to go back to the surgery and talk to the GPs and case review everything, which helped to build up my confidence and to make sure I wasn't feeling worried about what I was doing.

Which conditions do you usually treat?
It might be someone who has pulled a muscle in training, so I apply deep heat and give a massage, although I tell them I'm not trained in massage. People might have fractured fingers, or I manage players' asthma and make sure that they take their inhaler before they play. I give advice if they say they have been injured in training and I assess them to see if they can play on the day. During the match I can deal with injuries such as fractures, to someone being unconscious and not breathing. I have had minor bumps, grazes and cuts that need suturing, which I wash and cover up and then send off to be treated. One of the managers is a doctor who can also suture if it is required. We have had fractured cheekbones - it can be anything. We haven't had a cardiac arrest yet!

What is the most challenging injury you have had to deal with?
One guy was unconscious and that was quite scary. I could see he wasn't breathing and sometimes you have to be careful about looking after players' backs. But I dismissed that and put him on his side and lifted up his chin until he was breathing.
He was quite a big guy and had swallowed his tongue after he was knocked unconscious in a scrum. We have had others who have been concussed, and people have been punched or elbowed. One player had a nasty laceration to his heel that needed stitching; he was running and got caught by an opposing team member's boot. I have to watch the game like a hawk so that I know when I get there what I am dealing with, and don't have to rely on a verbal history. This is particularly important with some of our players who are deaf and may have their eyes closed in pain and are unable to lip read.

What is a typical day like for you?
I receive a phone call the night before to tell me a match
is on and I check who the teams are. If a match starts at 3pm
I get there at 1pm and set up the medical room. I make sure all the blankets and pillows are on the bed, go into my medical bag and make sure I have all my plasters, bandages and slings, give everything a clean and ensure that I have water in my bag. I carry a resuscitation kit with me all the time, and check that the stretchers are all ready and working.

The guys turn up at 1.30pm and some may need their ankles strapping up. I get the salbutamol inhalers from the asthma sufferers and make sure they have taken them. Then the players warm up and the match starts. At half time I go onto the pitch and check everything is OK. If people have cuts I treat them with antiseptic wipes; or if contact lenses are causing a player trouble I help with those.

My role really involves looking after the players and giving them a bit of mothering! I go to the post-match talk and check any cuts to see if they need dressings or if the player needs to go to A&E. Sometimes with bad injuries before half time I might have to stay with that person until the paramedics arrive. There may be two matches happening at the same time and I get called across if there any big injuries. I have to stay quite fit and be able to run as a result.

Do you see the role as a diversion from your day job - or has it contributed to your clinical skills?
It's a fabulous diversion yes. The surgery is so busy sometimes, you come to look after the boys and some of them have injuries that I see from start to finish which is satisfying. It impacts on my clinical role because some people come in with minor injuries and I can either deal with them myself or transfer them on to secondary care.

Would you recommend the role to other nurses?
You have to love rugby but go for it - I wish I had done it when I was younger, it's one of the best jobs I have ever done. I would recommend shadowing a physiotherapist to observe what occurs on the pitch and how they manage minor injuries, and then go and do one of the rugby union courses - the RFU course met my needs well so consider that if you are thinking of going ahead.