November 9, 2021, by School of Medicine

30 at 30: Supporting each other

Writing this blog is perfect timing as I started my nurse training at Mid Trent School and Nursing and Midwifery 30 years ago in September 1991. I lived at the City Hospital in Nurses Home one, which is now the Clinical Sciences building! The last 30 years have flown by and I have been privileged to have had a fulfilling career that has spanned clinical practice, teaching and research.  Intrinsic motivation has driven me throughout my career but equally the support and guidance of line managers, peers and mentors I have been fortunate enough to meet. The relationships I have formed have been central to my career development. In nursing we have the opportunity to champion each other and build networks to inspire growth and acknowledge success. 

At Mid Trent School and Nursing and Midwifery I was in the third Project 2000 intake. In 1994 my first job was on a medical ward at Nottingham City Hospital. In 1996 I went to work on a surgical ward at Derby City Hospital. Student nurses at Derby had yet to complete the Project 2000 programme. The Senior Nurse openly said she employed me to ‘see what we were like.’ I was known as P2K nurse! My next step was to do a nursing degree at the University of Derby. I reduced my hours so I could take the full-time pathway. 

In 1998 I was ready for a new challenge. My friend worked on ICU at QMC. I was fascinated by her work and decided if I was going to work in ICU it had to be in a large trauma centre. I stayed for six years progressing to F grade Sister and Practice Development Nurse (PDN). I was incredibly fortunate to undertake the ENB 100 Intensive Care Nursing course, full-time out of the numbers for six months to study! This included attending lectures, supernumerary time with mentors on the unit and placements at Nottingham City Hospital ICU and Cardiac ICU and at Derby City Hospital ICU. This opportunity feels unachievable in today’s NHS. 

Working as a PDN on ICU gave me my first experiences of working outside of my place of employment with colleagues in the Mid Trent Critical Care Network.  I was able to learn from more experienced educators and decided that a career pathway in education was for me. I sought opportunities for promotion and, through relationships from the network, pursued a G grade post at a different Trust as an educator implementing the policy document Comprehensive Critical Care. The focus of the role was to develop and deliver a critical care skills teaching programme for ward staff. Working under the leadership of supportive line managers the role evolved to become a trust wide PDN leading, developing and delivering clinical skills and acute care training, a competency framework for Agenda for Change and writing policy and implementing change in response to response to national policy and guidance. I stayed in this post for 10 years, had two children and completed my Masters in Clinical Education. 

My PDN role did not include direct patient care. I missed this aspect of nursing so, in 2012, i joined the nurse bank at the Royal Derby Hospital where I still work one or two shifts a month. For me, maintaining my clinical practice keeps me close to the reason I went in to nursing 30 years ago – patient care. In addition, as my career has developed I became interested in the experiences of healthcare workers in the complex setting of healthcare. Working clinically enables me to experience first-hand the realities of working on the frontline. This interest was ignited when working as PDN. When implementing change, I became increasingly frustrated trying to navigate the challenges in the organisation and often said ‘there has to be a better way!’ Eventually, after working as an undergraduate nurse lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, I decided to take a different career path. I was able to study if ‘there was a better way’ by winning a scholarship from The Health Foundation to undertake a full-time PhD in Implementation Science in 2014. I had been unsuccessful in two previous PhD scholarship applications. 

My PhD was based in the Business School at the University of Nottingham and supervised by leading academics in social science and organisational sociology. I have always actively sought out challenges but this was the biggest yet. After six years of hard work and tenacity, I was awarded my PhD. Supportive supervisors, mentors, line managers, work colleagues and peers helped me to achieve my goal. The Health Foundation scholarship and being based in a Business School provided me with incredible opportunities, including a research trip to a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. When my funding finished in 2017 (before I had finished my PhD), I worked as a Research Associate in the Business School.  

Over the last seven years I have developed a network in the field of Implementation Science and organisational sociology and currently work as a Research Associate in the SAPPHIRE group (Social science APPlied to Healthcare Improvement REsearch) in the Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester. I am a Research Associate on a NIHR funded mixed methods health service research study evaluating NHS post-hospitalisation services for COVID-19 to inform service development and achieve holistic, integrated, equitable and cost effective services. 

As a health services researcher I have actively taken steps to maintain my nursing identity and contribute towards raising the profile of nurses in research. My current role involves membership of national nursing networks and meeting with nurses in the Chief Nurses Office to share findings on the role of the nurse in Long Covid services. 

The last 18 months, as healthcare has responded to the impact of COVID-19, has demonstrated the importance of supporting each other. In the height of the pandemic I went back to work in ICU and was in awe of how the nurses used their extensive knowledge base and skills to care for patients and families in the most distressing and challenging conditions. I also worked in palliative care and the Emergency Department and witnessed how emotionally hard and draining it was to be in the eye of the storm with no break from COVID-19 in personal lives whether it was caring responsibilities, home schooling or experiencing the personal impact of COVID-19 being unwell themselves or caring for family and friends. 

The nurses I meet working clinically and those in the Chief Nurses Office are all part of the complex puzzle that is nursing in 2021 and after 30 years I am very proud to be part of the profession. 

By Dr Charlotte Overton RN, Research Associate, SAPPHIRE

Posted in 30 Years of Nursing