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Education is key

Updated: Oct 15, 2018

Our Clinical Services Manager, Sarah Williams, recently shared her journey as a nurse with us and proves that education is always key!

"As a student nurse I looked up to my nursing colleagues in awe of what they did on a daily basis and wondered would I ever be knowledgeable and brave enough to do what they do?

I remember one of the nursing sisters telling me that nursing was the ‘never ending education’ and the ‘day you know it all, is the day to quit’. She told this to all the newbies and she was correct, no question is a daft question – unless you are going to ask where the right handed gloves or long stands are, of course! Education is the key!

I attended my first handover meeting and wondered why all the staff were speaking a different language? What were all these abbreviations? They made no sense at all! I was never going to understand this world.

I walked out of that room to be called over by a patient, my fist patient. She asked my name and told me she had been in hospital for 5 weeks. She then went on to tell me why she was in hospital, I nodded no clue of what condition she was talking about – but she seemed to understand so that was all that mattered surely? She asked me to sit with her a while, explaining she had no family and no one who could visit. I held her hand and she shared stories of her life.

When I returned to shift the next day, I walked out of the handover room understanding a bit more, I was pleased I was learning. I walked to my patient’s bedside that I had talked to the previous morning, her bed was empty. She had passed away that evening. It was then I knew that I could make a difference. Maybe I will learn the abbreviations, maybe I won’t, but I can listen to people and I can make a difference in some way. I learnt my first real things; time, patience and empathy,

Three years later I qualified. I made it. All the assignments and late nights paid off. I was a qualified nurse, me, I did it!

Within 6 months of qualifying I got asked to take a student nurse with me for the day. ‘Me?’ I asked, ‘but I don’t know everything yet!’ It was at that point that I remembered the nursing sister three years ago - I was never going to know everything. I agreed to look after him. He was so inquisitive, so keen to learn - I learnt once again that education is key!

I quickly progressed in my career and after spending 4 years on specialist medical wards and Intensive Care, I was promoted to ward sister. The learning then started again! I was the one everyone looked to for the answers, but I didn’t have them all yet? – I was still learning! There were still patients with conditions I had never heard of, relatives with questions I had never been asked before. I also had staff that reported to me - they brought different questions to the table – off duty, holidays, stresses of their own. How will I support my team when I am still learning myself? I did though, for 8 years.

I would lead my team through changes, I saw many students come through the wards and some of which I saw develop into wonderful nurses. I saw fabulous staff nurses become sisters/charge nurses and other nurses develop into extended roles.

All around me there were different paths opening for nurses, extended roles, management roles, ward based roles, education and specialist practitioner roles. Student nurses and registered nurses now had more options open to them, all of which had different learnings – I learnt once again, education is the key!

I left the NHS after 12 years. I went into education! Me, yes me, who didn’t yet know it all, teaching others! I spent 5 years teaching consultants, registrars, anaesthetists and nurses working in the NHS across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I was teaching them, but every day I learnt something too.

I was then presented with a fabulous opportunity. A management post with a community provider, LivingCare, leading a team of clinical staff to provide excellent healthcare close to home. I accepted.

I now have a new learning of my own, new services, new languages! I am a student again, but I am leading the team! How can I do this?

I settled in quickly and realised that all my skills up to this point are going to help me. Within my team I have Clinicians, nurses, healthcare assistants and administration teams all working side by side to provide an excellent service. We have so much to offer, all working within specialist areas, all experts in their field.

I go and speak to my first patient. He tells me how knowledgeable and caring the nursing team are when he comes for his appointment. How welcoming the reception team are. How the doctors have helped provide him with the treatment he needs and all 5 minutes from his home.

After nearly one year of working at LivingCare we have started working with student nurses, helping to pass on our expertise to the nurses of the future. Once again I can see first-hand, that education is the key!

The nursing world is changing in line with the changes in NHS and in June 2017 Jackie Smith (Nursing and Midwifery Council Chief Executive and Registrar) stated that ‘The health and care landscape is changing at an unprecedented rate and nurses are being asked to undertake more complex roles’. The Nursing and Midwifery Council have this year launched its consultation on pre-registration training standards for nurses to ensure they are reflecting the changes mentioned by Jackie Smith.

From NHSE, to CCG, to secondary care to primary care teams like us we all share one goal - to provide our patients with the best possible care in the right place at the right time. For me to enable us to continue to do this with changing policy and advances in technology and treatments, we have to stay up to date and knowledgeable. Once again, education is the key!"


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