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Calum Smith reflects on the benefits his role brings to the community team

I fell in love with Orkney when I first came here on holiday in 2008. I returned twice a year until 2015, when I moved to the island to start my role as a rural generic support worker.

By then I’d worked for nearly 20 years in a range of health care roles, but this was a new challenge.

Calum Smith


I’m now based in the West Mainland community nursing team, but I also work with dieticians, GPs, specialist nurses and the intermediate community therapy team (ICT).

They help to rehabilitate and support people either to return home or to a residential care setting, after they’ve had a stroke, a hip replacement or other life-changing event.

Their team includes occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and other rural support workers based at the Balfour Hospital.  

Care at home

I cover a large rural area and visit patients’ homes across mainland Orkney, so I can spend a bit of time on the road between visits. I generally work on my own although I sometimes join up with other team members if needed. 

Alongside my usual nursing duties such as obtaining bloods, undertaking catheter or dressing care, I also support physiotherapists and occupational therapists in the ICT. 

On a typical visit, I may go along to the patient’s home with a physiotherapist who sets the patient exercises.

It’s an efficient process and equipment can be sourced in a couple of days

I carry out follow-up visits to help the patient work through what’s been set and report back with any concerns that arise. 

If I notice a patient needs equipment to keep them safe at home, something like a raised toilet seat or a rail in the bathroom, I arrange this for them.

I can do this without always having to refer to an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, although I’ll always contact them for advice if there’s anything I’m unsure of. 

Instead, I discuss my equipment recommendations with the nursing team and then pop in a request form knowing that my colleagues trust my knowledge, experience and judgement.

If we feel more input from the ICT team is needed, we refer the case back to them. It’s an efficient process and equipment can be sourced in a couple of days or even on the same day.

Working in a COVID world

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant we’ve had to adapt our ways of working. We now phone before visits to check if anyone has symptoms in households and we keep extra PPE in the car.

We’re working in a socially distanced way in the office as only limited numbers are allowed in at any one time. That feels odd as we’re such a close team but for now we must work in our own corners of the office and wear face coverings when moving around.

However, patients seem to have taken the changes in their stride. At first, some older patients were upset seeing us in PPE. 

Making a difference

I’m the only person with this job on Orkney, but I suspect others are doing similar roles in the NHS and elsewhere. How my role will develop in the future remains to be seen but I think there would be many benefits from having more people in my kind of role.

I’m not looking to move on from this job – I love it. I’m happy that I have such a rewarding role and am proud to be part of such a great team, working alongside great colleagues in all areas. 

Orkney is a close community and knowing I can make a difference to patients and their families, while supporting my colleagues, is what makes this job so special. 

Calum Smith is a rural generic support worker in Orkney.

The RCN District and Community Nursing Forum welcomes nursing support workers says Julie Green, forum chair 

Our forum represents district nurses and their community teams at a national level, in the four UK countries. 

We represent the whole team and encourage every team member, whether a nursing associate, assistant practitioner, registered nurse, nursing support worker or team leader to join.

We have almost 6,500 members working in all roles and we actively communicate using our busy, closed Facebook page, where you can get involved in professional debate and sharing resources.

We take every opportunity to raise the profile of district nursing, and aim to ensure that district and community nursing is visible, valued and celebrated. Please join us and make sure that your voice is heard.

Find out more about RCN forums.

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