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Every year on 12 May, we celebrate Nurses’ Day. This year, we’re highlighting the incredible work of nursing staff and the difference you and your colleagues make to patients’ lives, by sharing stories that demonstrate the #BestOfNursing. Despite working through challenging circumstances, you continue to go above and beyond to deliver highly skilled, safety-critical care to patients every single day. Here's a snapshot of how nursing staff have demonstrated the #BestOfNursing in the past 12 months.

Deb Panes, Endometriosis Nurse Practitioner, Bristol

Deb Panes, endometriosis nurse practitioner, wearing mask inside the hospital she works at in Bristol

One in 10 women have endometriosis, a chronic condition that can affect anyone with a uterus. Yet it takes patients eight years on average to get a diagnosis. Deb Panes began her role as an endometriosis nurse practitioner around seven years ago, after time spent working in gynaecology. She now works in a specialist tertiary referral service in Bristol, providing care for people with complex and severe endometriosis. “My role is about allowing people to open up and validating their symptoms,” Deb says. It’s still an underserved area of care, she says, but roles like hers can be life-changing to endometriosis patients suffering from chronic pain, fatigue, reproductive issues and related mental health difficulties. She helps patients find ways to manage their pain, navigate surgery, and access the psychological support they need. “It’s a supportive role – offering guidance to patients and being their point of contact if they have questions about follow-ups, treatment plans or new symptoms, which is really important, especially during COVID,” Deb says. “So many patients have told us how vital it is to have a nurse they can get in touch with.”

Rohit Sagoo, Founder of British Sikh Nurses, London/Bedfordshire

Rohit Sagoo

“Many people think of nursing as ward-based,” says Rohit Sagoo, who qualified as a children’s nurse in 2001. “But we can think outside the box while using the fundamental principles of nursing.” Last year, Rohit won the leadership category of the RCN Nursing Awards for his work with British Sikh Nurses, an organisation he set up in 2015 to bridge the gap between the NHS and the South Asian community. “It was really about engaging hard-to-reach groups, including the older generation and those with limited or no English language,” says Rohit. “Winning the leadership award has opened a few doors for me and I’d love to see even more people of colour nominated in future.” Rohit is now undertaking a PhD evaluating child health provision and the difficulties faced by people in deprived areas and minority communities in accessing services. He also does outreach work, meeting the health needs of people experiencing homelessness in Slough, Reading and London. Every week, Rohit can be found giving out packs containing toothbrushes and shower gel, and conducting health assessments for those in need. “I think that comes from nursing as well, caring for people, helping them to look after their personal hygiene and health,” he says. “It’s an avenue of nursing we should explore further.”

Catherine McLaughlin, Newly Registered Nurse, Belfast

Catherine McLaughlin former RCN student ambassador

Being a nursing student during the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t easy but, alongside working, studying and looking after six children, Catherine McLaughlin found time to advocate for her fellow nurse trainees. Last year, her hard work was recognised when she was named RCN Student Ambassador of the Year. Catherine was instrumental in getting nursing students out onto the picket line when nursing staff in Northern Ireland went on strike for fair pay in late 2019. During the pandemic, Catherine worked in a rapid response team set up by Queen's University Belfast to support and troubleshoot any issues students faced on placement or in their academic studies. Although she’s now qualified and working as a surgical vascular nurse, Catherine hasn’t stopped advocating for her colleagues. She set up a network for newly registered nurses in Northern Ireland and is training to be an RCN steward. “All nursing students give a lot to the workforce,” Catherine says. “We have a lot of challenges in nursing, but we need to talk about the good stuff as well… If we work together and support each other, that’s how we’ll achieve change.”

Jenny Chatfield, Cancer Care Navigator, Wolverhampton

Jenny Chatfield

Cancer treatment is an intensely difficult experience for most patients. The uncertainty that’s come with COVID-19 has only increased the stresses. Fortunately, nursing support workers like Jenny are making sure their patients never feel alone. Jenny has worked in the NHS for 25 years, mostly in urology care. Now, she is a cancer care navigator, providing a high level of support to urology cancer patients and their loved ones. “It’s an area of support that many patients weren’t getting previously,” she says. Jenny contacts patients within two weeks of their diagnosis to offer immediate care. She conducts holistic needs assessments and provides updates on treatment, practical advice and referrals to relevant resources and services. But most of all, she listens. “I support them in an emotional and practical way, which can have a positive impact on their care and their life outside hospital,” she says. “I’m not reading from a script. It’s heartfelt. I might be talking to someone who’s going through one of the worst experiences of their life. Being able to offer support at this time is important.”

Jesca Gudza, Perinatal Safeguarding Lead, London

Jesca Gudza Perinatal Safeguarding Lead

“My work was about being inclusive and tackling discrimination,” says Jesca Gudza, the recipient of an RCN Rising Star Award in 2021 for her work with young asylum seekers. “It’s beautiful to watch the young people grow, and fight for them to get the health care they need and the education they want.” Jesca spent much of her career as a school nurse, becoming an expert in child protection and immunisation. In 2010, she became Bexley’s only looked-after children’s nurse, assessing and treating children accommodated by social care. With young asylum seekers: “It’s important to understand their journey. They suddenly go back to being a young person again – that’s a challenge for many, their mental health can deteriorate. Reintegration is very important.” Earlier this year, Jesca started a new role as a safeguarding expert nurse. She’s still supporting people who are in the social care system, but now works with expectant mothers and babies. “I help parents understand why social care gets involved, and help social care understand that mental health is a continuum,” she says. “The best part is interacting with parents and seeing the difference you can make.” Originally from Zimbabwe, Jesca is also the co-founder and chair of the Zimbabwean Midwifery & Nurses Association. She says: “We offer mental health support and career support as these nurses integrate into the UK and the NHS.”

Lesley Steven, Diabetes Specialist Research Nurse, Edinburgh

Lesley Steven Diabetes Specialist Research Nurse, Edinburgh

Research is a crucial part of health care, helping us find new and better ways to treat all kinds of conditions. It’s also the perfect place for nursing staff, says Diabetes Specialist Research Nurse Lesley Steven: “Nurses have a very wide range of excellent skills for research. Good research nurses are excellent communicators who pay attention to detail, but also provide great clinical care.” Lesley became interested in research during her degree in advanced nursing, when she was “drawn to the organised and methodical aspect of research”. Now, she’s been working in diabetes research for 16 years, currently for the Scottish government’s National Diabetes Research Network, where she manages a team of research nurses. There’s lots of patient interaction, with some taking part in long-term or multiple trials: “Getting to know patients is particularly satisfying. We VIP them – we go above and beyond because we’re greatly appreciative of their input. Without the trials we wouldn’t have new medications for diabetes.” Lesley is now seeing more trials developing new technologies to help diabetes patients, such as wearable tech that acts like an artificial pancreas. “It’s exciting to be at the forefront of new therapies – it makes a tangible difference to people living with diabetes,” she says. “I’ve worked in research for 20 years and I still love it so much.”

Kirsty John, Prison Nurse, Cardiff

Kirsty John Prison Nurse Cardiff

“We’re caring for and empowering some of the most vulnerable and isolated people in society, while reducing the gap in health inequalities,” says Kirsty John, a nurse at HMP Cardiff, who’s working to eliminate hepatitis C among the prison population. Kirsty, a former prison officer, works hard to advocate for her patients. Last year, she was awarded RCN Wales Nurse of the Year 2021, in part for her efforts to provide COVID-19 testing for every person arriving in custody and setting up a vaccination hub within the prison to make the institution safer for everyone. A former community substance misuse nurse, Kirsty has a deep understanding of addiction too, and her connections with the community bloodborne virus team helped her develop her work on hepatitis C. She wants to ensure that support continues in the community and that patients have access to peer support. “This opens up conversations, breaks down barriers and ensures patients are engaged and involved in the whole process,” she says. “Tackling stigma is important. We need to enable positive recovery outcomes for patients and re-integration to society, rather than reaching for coping mechanisms and cycles that may further harm their health and inhibit recovery and rehabilitation.”

Jonah Rusere, Urology Clinical Nurse Specialist, London

Jonah Rusere in work uniform

Nursing staff are highly skilled and in 2022 are more likely than ever to be carrying out complex procedures. Jonah Rusere is one of an increasing number of nurses who carry out transperineal biopsies, used to help diagnose prostate cancer. “In my previous job, I was so interested in what happened during a biopsy that I’d been assisting doctors for four or five years,” he says. “It became a goal of mine to take the next step.” Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers, with nearly 50,000 men diagnosed in the UK each year. Transperineal biopsy, an outpatient procedure using local anaesthetic, is safer and quicker than transrectal ultrasound guided biopsy (TRUS). To allow hospitals to phase out TRUS biopsies, Jonah began training consultants, registrars and nurses in South East London Cancer Alliance and further afield in the technique. “It’s rare for a nurse to train consultants, but I’ve really enjoyed it,” he says. “It’s a very unique position to help drive change that is making such a difference to patients’ lives - and I feel very privileged.”

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