January 15, 2021, by School of Medicine

30 at 30: Sandra Lawton OBE

Sandra Lawton OBE smiling at the cameraThis week we hear from alumna, Sandra Lawton OBE – Nurse Consultant Dermatology and Clinical Lead at the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust. Sandra has worked in dermatology for 33 years (previously at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust) and developed the role of dermatology liaison sister in 1990, the first post of this kind in the UK. Sandra was awarded Public Servant of the Year in 2003, the title of Queen’s Nurse in 2007, Fellow of Queen’s Nursing Institute in 2012 and OBE in 2014.

My nursing career began in 1975 at Nottingham Eye Hospital and more recently over 30 years working in dermatology in Nottingham. So you could say Nottingham is my nursing home and one I can say I have been proud to be part of. Over the last 3 decades I have seen many changes, which have transformed the role of nurses and made a difference to our patients.

From a nursing perspective, there are so many more opportunities for nurses to gain theoretical and experiential knowledge, which one could not have envisaged in my early nursing years. The University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust are two organisations working together to ensure we achieve the best from the best academically, clinically and in terms of leading research. It is research within the field of dermatology that I wish to focus on.

In the late 1990s I was fortunate to work alongside Professor Hywel Williams in clinical practice where we developed an award-winning clinical service for children with atopic eczema and the Nottingham Support Group for Carers of Children with Eczema. In addition to working as a clinical dermatologist, Hywel, has made substantial contributions to dermatology research both nationally and internationally. He was appointed as Foundation Professor of Dermato-epidemiology at the University of Nottingham in 1998, where he soon established the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology. The Centre has become world-renowned for independent, high-quality, practice-changing research in skin disease that prioritises the needs of patients and clinicians and is the co-ordinating centre for the UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network (UK DCTN) established in 2002.

The Centre has been commended for its unique approach to ensuring that questions of importance to patients and clinicians are identified and addressed using a collaborative approach. This collaborative approach ensures that all clinical colleagues and patients are involved and I am proud to say I have been part of their journey, with opportunities to be co-applicant for key areas of research relating to my clinical practice and to develop my research and academic skills further.

Nurses now play a fundamental part in developing the clinical and academic roles we see today, which are making a real difference to those working in academia, clinical practice and research with many wearing all three hats. Who would have thought it when I was a young student nurse? The hierarchy and defined roles back then are no longer.

I have had so many opportunities to work with so many special people nationally, internationally, and continue to do so – there are too many to name, but they will know who they are. We have collaboratively made a difference and influenced dermatology care and research. Our philosophy in Nottingham was for our patents to ‘Feel Safe, Secure, Accepted and Informed’, which we should all aspire to in whatever area of practice we work. As an expert practitioner; an educator; a clinical leader; and a knowledge/evidence broker, I am proud to have been recognised by Nottingham University in 2011 with the Alumni Laureate Award. Dermatology is no longer Cinderella Specialty and patient care is always the focus of all we do.

I will end with a patient quote:

“When you meet people for the first time, what do they see but the surface covering? When you go shopping you wouldn’t buy anything that is ripped or dented – you would look for good quality packing. Well that is what it feels like. People see psoriasis and step back. For example, imagine what it would feel like sitting on a full bus and the seat next to you is the only one left. People will stand rather than sit there! It is very demoralising.

Think what it feels like when your children beg you not to go to school to open evening or sports day because the other children tell them their mother is a scabby witch.”

I have met some very special people during my career and this is in memory of one special young girl, Abigail. Wayne, Abigail’s father, also shared this touching message:

“You guys have worked wonders and did and continue to do so much good! It was you that taught me the value of interacting with the medical staff, taking an holistic approach and getting involved. You guys have been, and still are, streets ahead of some units. More power to your elbow Nurse Consultant Sandra Lawton OBE! Abi thought you were ace. XXX”

We are making a difference and will continue to do so.

Posted in 30 Years of NursingAlumniNursing