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Neonatal nursing

Debbie Webster

Name: Debbie Webster

Job title: Quality Improvement Lead Nurse 

Speciality: Neonatal education

Organisation: Liverpool Women's Hospital. Currently on a secondment to the Northwest Neonatal Network managing an education project

What is your current role?

Currently I am working for the NWNODN (Northwest Neonatal Operational Delivery Network) facilitating a variety of education packages for all staff who work on the 22 neonatal units across our area.

This is a really varied and challenging role as we are trying to support education for nurses, doctors and allied health professionals over a large geographical area. We are also working with our colleagues over in the Yorkshire Network who are doing similar things.

So far we have added to our existing Induction Programme for new nurses with one for clinical support workers, delivered a neonatal surgical course, a network neonatal medicines management study day and an update day for consultants on level 2 units.

What was your route to this role?

I trained in the old fashioned way based at Alder Hey Children's Hospital and gained a joint qualification in child and adult nursing. My first job as a staff nurse was on a small PICU in London that had a neonatal surgical unit attached to it. Although through training I had leaned towards cardiac and paediatric intensive care I was intrigued with this new world of neonates and came back to Liverpool to complete the ENB 405 course at Oxford St Maternity Hospital which, at the time had one of the fastest growing NICU's. I was hooked and am still employed by the same Trust over 30 years later!

I got a sister's post there and worked clinically for the next 10 years until I took on the role of educator on the unit; after a few years of being unit based I became the Lecturer Practitioner between the unit and local university with my main responsibility teaching the neonatal Qualification in Specialty (old ENB 405). As networks started to develop I had a secondment for 2 years which gave me a view of the bigger picture of neonatal care. I am currently seconded full time to the network, this is the first time I have been away from the clinical area completely but I still believe I am contributing to ensuring all babies get consistent and high quality care.

What prompted you to do this role?

Neonates is a very challenging area of work as it is not only fast paced and unpredictable but you are also caring for families who are in the middle of what is probably the most traumatic event of their lives. The whole team needs to work together really well, be constantly updated and a high level of knowledge and skills is essential. I know that if the workforce is supported with good education and opportunities to develop the confidence gained will improve the quality of care delivered to babies and families. It also improves retention which managers like!

What education/courses/modules have you undertaken to equip you for the role?

I have a Masters degree in Health Research and Policy and a teaching qualification. I have completed a lot of courses on bereavement and palliative care to enable me to deliver study days for staff and I have also gained some counseling qualifications. As with most educators I am an NLS instructor. Over the last few years SIMS training has become a great education resource and to enhance this I have done some human factors training.

How do you see yourself developing your skills?

As I come towards the end of my career I realise how important succession planning is and to this end I would like to develop my coaching skills.

What is your long-term career plan?

This secondment is for another year and then I will work my last few years back on the neonatal unit.

What advice would you give someone thinking about moving to work in your area of practice?

To get a placement to see how you feel - its not for everyone but I think most people know quite quickly if its what they want to do. When you are there try and speak to people in different roles - clinical, education, management, community etc. 

What do you most enjoy about this area of care?

I think neonates has been one of the fastest growing specialties and its constant evolving has made it an exciting place to be over the last 30 years. However my main job satisfaction has been making a difference to the families we look after; the amazing cards we get years later saying thank you, families who we have long forgotten saying they are thankful for us every day. Its a real opportunity to provide high quality care and by giving just that little bit extra we can make an awful situation the best it can be.

Also for me personally in education I love seeing staff develop and progress; there have been some students on an elective placement who are now advanced practitioners and team leaders.

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