Approximately 15 years ago I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. After dreaming of becoming a nurse from the age of just 3, the opportunity arose for me to finally begin my dream career. This didn’t come easy as over 30 nurses applied for the student nursing program locally and it was a rigorous process of two day of interviews before I finally got offered one of only 12 places. Eleven of us completed this course and sadly only 9 remain in nursing roles today.
During my 3-year course I had a baby, but couldn’t take maternity leave allowances because I had to keep up with assignment deadlines or lose my place on the nursing course. I strived so hard for my nursing registration. It wasn’t easy, there were tears, moments of “I can’t do this” but I did – and I’m proud of what I achieved. Without the support of my family it would never have been possible. As part of the 3-year course I did placements on many wards ranging from surgical and medical, to elderly care, maternity, emergency care and community. I had to meet specific competencies on each 3-month placement and get signed off by my assigned mentor, a registered nurse who had undertaken specialist teaching and assessing competencies. In between my ward placements were college placements – where we undertook our undergraduate university competencies.
When I completed my training and finally became a Registered Nurse I began working as part of the community nursing team. Many people think that once you get your nursing PIN (Personal Identification Number) which is Registration with the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) that it is the end of training - little do they know! It’s just the start; there are many additional qualifications required depending on your chosen area of practice. As part of the community nursing skills required to do my job, I undertook extra training in venepuncture (taking blood tests), catheterisation (for urinary and bladder problems), compression bandaging (specialist bandaging for leg ulcers), Doppler ultrasonography (to check blood flow through arteries and veins), Teaching and Assessing competencies to become a mentor to support other students and learners (to guide students through their practical placement, and support healthcare assistants through their Vocational Qualifications (VQ) right through to supporting other junior nurses. Each year we have to undertake specific mandatory training and complete the revalidation process every 3 years to maintain our NMC Pin.
I have undertaken extra training to top up my nursing diploma to a nursing degree. I completed my degree in 2015 and continued to work in the community team for the next two years where I became a VQ assessor, ergo coach (provides guidance for safe patient movement and manual handling techniques for team members) and I obtained a teaching diploma. All of these extra qualifications required additional work, additional to the 37.5 hour working week.
I moved on from the district nursing team to progress to a band six post in the Rapid Response team. I care for people in the own homes. It is a privilege to be invited into someone’s home and I love variety of work I can experience in one day. We support people to live as independently as possible and work with families to assess, plan and implement individual care packages from short term wound care right through to provision of palliative care, ensuring comfort and dignity at the end of life and providing support to the family and friends of our patients.
Rapid response teams provide short term care for people for up to 14 days in their own homes to prevent hospital admissions. We receive referrals for people who may have fallen and sustained an injury, others may be fighting an infection and require short term care or perhaps their carer has a crisis and is no longer able to support them. We work shifts and provide care round the clock care often undertaking 12-hour shifts, 7 days a week 365 days a year. We often go into unexpected situations, meaning we cannot always work to plans but instead finish our shifts later – if the patients need us, we can’t leave them. We go out in all weather; rain, shine or snow you’ll see us heading out the door to make sure our patients are ok.
We offer equipment delivery, inputting supporting services like home help, shopping or sitting service. We undertake Nursing Assessment Panel (NAP) assessments if home care is no longer feasible and a residential home or nursing home has to be organised. We often see patients in crisis situations, we offer a complex holistic assessment to ensure that all the support is in place to maintain independence and safety. We work closely with social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, healthcare support workers, district nursing teams, day centres and GP’s. The most rewarding part of my job is when a patient is finally able to be discharged from our services to continue living in their own homes. Many say they or their families often did not know that such support exists and they are eternally grateful for enabling them to remain at home.
I love my job and never feel unhappy at the thought of going to work the next day. Since joining the Rapid Response team, I have embarked on another adventure. I am just about to start my final year of my master’s degree to become an Advance Nurse Practitioner (ANP).
When people tell me I’m just a nurse, I nod and smile pleasantly... little do they know what ‘just a nurse’ really is! My child knows just how hard I’ve had to work (sometimes, even on Christmas Day). I’ve often had to be a Nurse first and Mum second but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I watched people come in and go out of the world and that is a privilege and worth everything.
Not just me but WE deserve more, we’re not just nurses we are your NURSES and we have ALL worked hard and given up lots to get here! Support our campaign for equal pay for work of equal value. Fair pay will encourage recruitment and help retention of nurses.