Today marks the International Day of the Nurse. Health Reporter Craig Thompson joins Newcastle Hospitals’ annual Nursing and Midwifery Conference to speak to those on the frontline of our NHS.
They are often the unsung heroes of our hospital wards but today their voices will unite on the International Day of the Nurse.
Marking the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday, the day aims to bring together nurses from across the world.
In Newcastle, more than 300 members of the largest nursing and midwifery workforce in the North-East aim to make May 12 all about “putting the patient at the heart of everything we do”.
With over 13,500 members of staff, the Newcastle Hospitals trust is one of the largest employers in the region with a vast and diverse workforce.
Over a third of hospital staff are nurses and midwives – 4,517 at the last count.
This workforce can specialise in a wide range of areas such as cancer care, maternity and children’s healthcare, neurodegenerative disease, dementia care, critical care and major trauma.
The teams spend the most time with patients and their families, forming close, trusting relationships, often supporting them at the most vulnerable times of their lives.
The Nursing and Midwifery Conference celebrates the often life-changing impact they have on patients and their loved ones, every single day.
Helen Lamont, Nursing and Patient Services Director for the Newcastle Hospitals, began her nursing career in the city as a student nurse at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, before training as a midwife at the former Princess Mary Maternity Hospital in Jesmond.
Having chosen Orthopaedics as her area of expertise, she worked her way up to Ward Sister, followed by the role of Service Manager, and then Head of Nursing before taking up the helm as Chief Nurse in 2009.
She said: “We are extremely proud of our nurses and midwives here in Newcastle. Whilst my team and I regularly express our thanks for the dedication they display every single day, I think it’s really important to take a special day out to reflect on, and share, the work that takes place on our wards, in our clinics and in the patients’ own homes day in, day out..”
This year the conference will welcome Kris Hallenga – founder of the hugely successful “Coppafeel” charity and breast cancer awareness campaign.
Kris was found to have breast cancer in 2009 at the age of just 23, some eight months after originally seeing her GP. Despite having advanced stage cancer, she is working tirelessly to challenge views around cancer, and in particular that it is often wrongly perceived to be an “older person’s illness”.
Helen added: “The key theme of this year’s Conference is to place the patient at the heart of everything that we do. Having Kris join us to share her own experiences will, I’m sure, help to remind us why this is so important.
“Hearing patient experiences, first hand, is always so powerful, and a great way for us all to be reminded of the difference good and compassionate care can make.”
Throughout today there are a number of sessions aiming to show how the nursing and midwifery teams are aiming to improve patients’ experience.
Helen said: “Florence Nightingale is reported to have said ‘Rather ten times die in the surf, heralding the way to a new world, than stand idly on the shore’.
“This may seem like a strange quote to choose, but I believe this is what our conference is all about.
“Nursing has undergone a radical transformation with a new generation of practitioners emerging.
“They have new and exciting skills and expertise, to meet the demands of an ever changing population, in an exciting and pioneering environment – whether in one of our hospitals or in the community, and we are keen to support our staff to continue to innovate and develop so that our patients receive the best and most up to date treatment and care.”
In the run up to today’s conference, all the nurses and midwives across the Newcastle Hospitals are asked to put forward exciting new initiatives they are proud of for the annual Achievement Awards.
This year, the submissions were whittled down to three
‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ - Implementing a therapeutic group for women experiencing mental health difficulties, health visitors in the outer West of Newcastle discovered that maternal depression in their area was significantly higher than the UK average.
To help support local mums with these problems, the health visitors have started a ten week course, working with a psychologist, to help raise self-esteem and confidence, and give support on health related topics, as well as parenting, and managing infant and child behaviour.
Ann Tulip, coordinator, said: “For the course to be successful, it was important for the mothers to feel relaxed and comfortable, so practical activities were included which provided a distraction while they discussed all sorts of personal issues.”
Michelle Pratt, a health visitor who works with young mums, added: “It is understandable that many patients find it difficult to divulge personal information.
“New mothers may feel extremely stressed and have fears about their child but are too embarrassed to talk about them.
“By creating a trusting and welcoming environment, there is a greater chance they will open up honestly which means we can offer high quality, safe healthcare.”
‘Open the doors and take down the walls’ – ‘Pop-up’ interactive health stalls in the school environment.
Newcastle Hospitals’ community nurses provide care as closer to home wherever possible. Yet not all our nurses work in health centres or in patients’ homes.
The city’s School Nursing Team is part of the 0-19 Years’ Service and play a pivotal role in improving the health of the school-aged population and their families.
It became clear that young people wanted the School Nurses to be more visible and to present health and lifestyle issues in a more engaging way than simply holding discussions in the classroom.
A ‘Pop-Up’ culture has become popular in today’s society with banners, posters and interactive screens increasingly used in shopping malls, restaurants, and other places. The School Nurses looked to see if this concept could be adopted in the school environment.
David Smith, Public Health Team Lead in the outer West of Newcastle, said: “We decided to develop vibrant and exciting displays with interactive activities - objects to touch, things to see and smell. The fact that we just ‘Pop-Up’ in a corridor, hall, dining room or school yard is instantly exciting to young people, and allows the School Nurses to engage with them in a dynamic way.”
Development of a nurse led service to treat children and young people with Graft versus Host Disease.
The Paediatric Oncology department at the Great North Children’s Hospital looks after children and young people with all types of childhood cancers including blood related cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
Some young patients with blood cancer develop life threatening conditions which need highly specialist care such as stem cell transplants, only available in the most advanced children’s hospitals.
The Great North Children’s Hospital has a dedicated team of specialist nurses who look after these children. They provide highly advanced treatment and have set up a new nurse-led service specifically for difficult Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD) - a very severe complication which can follow a donor transplant from stem cells.
Julie Guest, a Clinical Nurse Specialist who leads the service at the Great North Children’s Hospital, said: “GvHD occurs when the donor’s white cells recognise that the patient’s cells are different and the donated cells attack the patients.
“Before a transplant, everything is done to make sure that the donor and patient are the best match and that the risk of GvHD occurring is reduced. Patients will also have complex drug treatments to minimize GvHD. But in some cases even with the best matched donors and drug treatment this complication can occur.
“For patients who have these difficult to manage side effects, a specialist treatment known as clinical apheresis, can offer a cure.”
Clinical apheresis procedures are very complicated.
The child’s blood is drawn into a collection machine and spun around very fast. This spinning separates out the blood so that the cells that need treatment or saving for future use can be collected into a bag. At the same time the blood is being removed from the patient, blood previously removed to undergo special treatment, is returned to the patient’s blood circulation.
If you are searching for a more rewarding job as a nurse or widwife, find out more by visiting www.newcastle-hospitals.org.uk/jobs/nursing-and-midwifery.aspx
Liz Harris, Head of Nursing for the Royal Victoria Infirmary, said: “Each year we have over 1.6 million patient contacts on our wards, in our clinics and in the community.
“Last year we saw the safe delivery of over 7,000 babies at the RVI’s Maternity Unit.
“Compassionate Nurses and Midwives who are committed to their profession are vital to ensuring we can provide the very safest, high quality healthcare possible for all of our patients.”