He’s only been in the job 18 months, but charge nurse Chris Wamsley has made huge improvements on the general medical ward where he works at Mater Hospital in Belfast.
"When I started on the ward, staff morale was low, there was high staff turnover and a lot of burnout," says Chris, who was recently crowned RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year. "I wanted to change the way things were run to improve this."
Yet Chris’s ideas didn’t include a focus on staff, but on patients. "All the staff want the same thing - to improve patient care. By making our patients the focus, we’ve been brought closer together and enhanced the patient experience."
Getting to know you
Chris started Tea for Treatment, an incentive allowing staff to have an extra tea break to talk to patients. "It was just half an hour for a member of the team to sit down with someone. We bring out the dementia trolley, with items to talk about to help with memory, and we have the opportunity to get to know the person, making them more than simply a stranger who we care for."
With the idea proving popular, Chris came up with another simple initiative. "Dress for Success looked at how the patients were spending their days in hospital," he says. "Being an inpatient often involves a lot of waiting around for tests, x-rays or medication. This can mean some patients rarely get dressed and out of bed, so when they leave, they go home needing more care as they’ve not been mobile."
We want patients to value their time in hospital
With the support of senior managers and staff across the hospital, the initiative was promoted through leaflets and local media. "The idea is to help patients get up and get dressed and follow a normal routine so it means they're going home as close to independent as possible."
The patients on the ward come from many different places including care homes and those who live independently, but many are frail and have health issues such as alcoholism. "Of course, if someone can’t get dressed or be active on the ward, we don’t make them, but for many we want them to value their time in hospital and this in turn improves staff morale."
The initiative can be measured through the number of patients that left Chris’s ward needing further care. This figure stood at 18 in May 2017; 12 months on, only one patient left the ward needing further care. Staff retention has improved and those moving on have done so because of promotion.
"I love my job," says Chris. "Winning the award has made me feel very proud as nursing is all I’ve known since I left school."
Chris’s next plan is to improve the flow of patients through the ward so that discharge is a smoother process. "There’s always room for improvement," he adds.
Words by Susan Embley. Pictures by Simon Graham.