Former NHS Nurse and manager now contemplating the NHS from outside

Archive for the ‘Nursing’ Category

Using Twitter to discuss nursing issues and share information

wenursesbadgeBefore my redundancy I had little time to explore how social media is being used by healthcare professionals. I knew that our PCTs and Trusts were using it to report what was going on, but I had no idea about how many individuals were doing the same. Since I finished work though, I have joined Twitter myself and started to follow some of the people out there who are tweeting about nursing and healthcare. Of course, I have other interests too and am also following a few celebrities.

Unlike Facebook, people on Twitter tend not to lay bare their entire lives. This is helped by the fact you can only post 140 characters or less at a time. It seems an ideal way to share news and information with others. Some individuals are quite prolific in their posts, you wonder how they find time to get anything done. Maybe, they are the irritating people you see at meetings who spend the whole time studying their mobile phones. I used to think those people were answering emails, but perhaps they are on Twitter?

I have been interested to see read the tweets of nurses and doctors who work at the bedside, quite rightly of course they will be offering general information and personal opinion. Just as with blogging there are massive pitfalls to writing online about work. But it is great to see that people are overcoming the potential minefields of confidentiality and employer resistance to social media. Many NHS organisations don’t allow staff to access social media from their work computers, but since everyone now has a smart phone, this doesn’t stop people.

A couple of weekends ago, as a celebration of International Nursing Day, @WeNurses held a ‘tweetathon’ for people to post stories of nursing and to send pictures of badges and buckles. They also hold regular discussions about pertinent issues for nursing and healthcare; today there was one about the Liverpool Care Pathway. Because this discussion takes place in an open forum, as members of the public and media get to know about them, there is a greater chance that people will see nurses in the positive way we need. They will see professional discussion from caring and intelligent people. They will see the sharing of best practice, they will see compassion in action and they will see that some of the recent rhetoric is plainly untrue.

Social media seems to be here to stay and for me it seems to be a great way of finding out what is happening out there and for getting to know the lives of other people.

You can follow me here Though of course, I don’t have loads to say just yet. Hopefully that might soon change!

Celebrating Nursing

Over the past 6 weeks or so I can honestly admit that I have been taking things rather easy. I am now over the experience of organisational change and redundancy and from my encounters with colleagues employed in the new worlds of NHS England and the local Commissioning Support Unit, I am well shot of it all. My pension has now paid up (suggestions by NHS Pensions that it would all take 3 months were unfounded) and I am about to become an investor in ‘funds’. Soon, I will swop the Nursing Times for the Financial Times, well, maybe not.

I have begun to consider what work I would rather do in the future and on balance, while I am unlikely to find my way back to a bedside any day soon (my back has been playing up something chronic), I would like to work closer to the patient and hopefully with some nurses. A week ago I helped out at a training session for community staff, something that I have contributed to a number of times. It didn’t take longer than coffee time to dust off my brain, and I know that I could and would like to do more of that. I also stepped up and sorted out a presentation for an ex boss last week, banking a few hours of self employed work (there is more to come). Plus there is a job in the pipeline which I intend to apply for, but which I am waiting for the advert to appear.

Yesterday though, I went of my own free will, unpaid to a nurses day celebration and I am glad I did. It filled me with an enthusiasm for nursing and the NHS that I have not felt for a while. So much has been written and said about the state of the health service, about whether nurses have forgotten the purpose of providing care, forgotten perhaps how to care.

It is easy to buy into the idea that nurses who are out there now are in some way inferior to the way they once were. The concept that they have in some way lost their vocation and that they lack the compassion to deliver the best that they can. It is easy to believe that nursing leaders are lacking in some way, that they are not committed to ensuring that they set the vision, to inspire and support their workforce.

The conference took place at a local university, run jointly between acute, community and mental health Trusts. Present were all of the nurse leaders from those Trusts as well as in excess of 100 nurses from across the area. The purpose was to celebrate nursing locally and nationally, to inspire and to inform. It did just that. The keynote speakers, one from the chief nurse and the other from someone who has achieved so much despite and because of his disability were great to hear. But equally the quality of presentations from local nurses was of equal quality. It made me proud that I am still a nurse and it inspired me to get back to work soon. I want to work with these people, to be able to support their ability to overcome the negativity and continue the great work they do. To recognise the complexities of modern healthcare and to show people that compassion still exists in nursing. To celebrate nursing.

Near the end of the day, we were shown this youtube clip. I think it tells us what we need to know about the future.


Too little too late

So the RCN and RCM have withdrawn their support for the NHS Health and Social Care Bill. About time too in my opinion, but you have to wonder exactly why it has taken so long. It is 18 months or so since the Government first published their ideas for abolishing PCTs and putting GPs in charge of commissioning as well as a whole range of changes which will apparently increase competition and fix the mess that apparently is our healthcare system. Since then we have paused, given our views, seen some cosmetic changes and started the long weary process to change. The Bill still isn’t law but I suspect that will come soon. At the same time we are to save £20 billion, because after all the NHS is wasteful.

I respect the RCN both as a professional organisation (I studied for my BSc through them) and as a Union. But I wonder why they have chosen now to declare outright opposition. Is it as Andrew Lansley says that they are doing this because of the changes to public sector pensions? Because nursing is getting a bad press right now? Or is it because at long last people are realising that the current pressures on nurses which appear to be resulting in a deterioration in the level of care nurses are able to provide will only get worse? Nurses have been telling whoever will listen to them that this reorganisation is being done for its own sake and that services are being affected and people are losing their jobs. It is good to know we are being listened to by someone – at last!

This weekend I am meeting up with some of the people I trained with 30 years ago. Over lunch we will no doubt reminisce about the good old days and will talk about nursing today. We may well talk about the mess that political meddling has done and will do in the future to the NHS and to our profession. We will also wonder how on earth patient care will improve as a result. We might wonder if actually it is too late and we are lucky that we are approaching 50 rather than just starting on our careers.

Caring for people with learning disabilities when they are sick

I am an adult nurse who started their training in 1980. We received education and training across many spheres of nursing practice, but nothing specifically about the specific needs of people with learning disabilities. I worked in a long stay mental health facility for 8 weeks during my training, people with severe mental illness were mixed together with people who had learning disabilities and some people who probably started off with little in the way of an illness of any kind. As general nursing students we were able to offer some more general nursing care, after all everyone develops physical illness. The first time I encountered patients who were learning disabled was when I was a District Nurse. I had little knowledge of their specific needs and learned most about their conditions from their carers (family members and care home staff). What I did know was that I needed to offer care, compassion and time. I needed to give time and to listen and to use my instincts. I didn’t assume someone with a learning disability had no feelings, could not experience pain or that I knew best. My knowledge looking back was woeful, but to the best of my knowledge no one came to serious harm or died because of me.

Over the last decade or more, nurse training in the UK has been split into different areas of care – adult, children, mental health and learning disabilities. In the main nurses remain within their sphere of practice, despite the obvious cross over between disciplines. My own training failed to prepare me to care for many people I have encountered along the way, but there are ample opportunities to learn along the way. There can be compassion and there can be kindness. Yet again today I am ashamed and embarrassed by a report that suggests that nursing care in this country isn’t all it is cracked up to be. But I refuse to believe it has to be like this!

Happy New Year!

So 2012 has arrived. It is good at this point in the year, i.e. at the start to reflect back on the good, bad and ugly of the previous 12 months and to look ahead to the coming months. 2011 was pretty eventful. In June I was interviewed for a job which finally in October I was able to start. In December I was at last allowed to stop doing two jobs at once, just as well as the new one has just got pretty busy. There are lots to do to help support the improvement in services for people with cancer. I just hope that this job can last past the end of my secondment (March 2013); as the year goes on that should become clearer as we await a report on the future of clinical networks which is due in the next few weeks. The great thing about a new job is that it means you have new things to learn, and things have moved on massively in the world of cancer care since I was working clinically so my learning curve has been pretty steep. I actually look forward to going to work each day and that is a pretty good thing.

I am also pleased to report that my dad, who was coincidentally diagnosed with cancer around the time of my interview, has completed chemotherapy and at present seems to be doing well. This is a huge relief as the cancer is secondary and probably cannot be cured. It was great to see him eating and drinking well and buzzing around us all as usual. Fingers crossed that the scan he had a few days ago confirms this.

My son, who is studying in California for a year is home for Christmas. It has been great having him home even if it seems to have doubled the amount of washing and ironing I have to do and has increased the food bills considerably. He goes back on January 15th, but this time we can look forward to seeing him just a month later when hubby and I visit for his 21st birthday.

So I start 2012 hopeful that this might be a reasonable one for me personally. At work we continue to live through the protracted process of the new NHS Bill which is not yet law, but which is causing a fair amount of change for the sake of change. The GP commissioners are flexing their muscles but at the same time discovering that commissioning is not about telling people what to do and expecting it to just be done. From my new position within a clinical network which will be part of the Commissioning Board I am finding all of the PCT related stuff interesting. People are not surprisingly positioning themselves and that is always fun to observe!

New years resolutions? Well probably best not to promise anything but I will try to blog more (but then I have tried that before).

I wish everyone who takes the time to read this blog post a happy and healthy new year. I hope 2012 is full of promise for you too!

At last

After being interviewed for a new job, a secondment, at the end of June, I have finally got started in the role. For the last two weeks, and for probably another two weeks I am in effect doing two jobs. This is an approach I would not recommend but sometimes we have to make sacrifices in order to get what we want from life.

I moved desks, within the same building, on 3rd Oct and since then have combined induction into the world of cancer and palliative care with managing what I can physically do in the world of maternity and acute children’s commissioning. I am really pleased to say that the new team have been really welcoming, my old team gave me a good send off and all of the people within the network that I have met so far have been friendly.

My new job started with a 2 day meeting in London which was great for giving me a grounding on current issues in cancer services and also in working through some issues about how we can best approach the issue of needing to make sure the voice of the patient / user / carer heard in the way services are planned and provided. I think that hopefully there will be lots for me to write about on this topic once I get my brain properly into gear.

As for the old job, there is plenty that I would like to write about how you should not manage people, and about the emotional mechanisms a person may use to cover up their own short comings and make you feel guilty for them. However that may be difficult and what is more I think moving on rather than going on about it might be more healthy!

The Health and Social Care Bill has this week progressed further on its slow and painful journey to some brave new world that is only clear to people like Andrew Lansley. But it is now inevitable that it will soon be law; it pains me to say but the sooner the better now. We cannot continue with all of this uncertainty and what is more the PCTs are busy making the necessary changes to make it happen and it would be a crime to put the brakes on and go into reverse now. My hope is that the review of clinical networks comes out clearly saying that they need to be developed and strengthened and that what is more that my job needs to be made permanent. There is no way on earth that once I say a final goodbye to commissioning that I intend to go back. But I guess they say never say never!!

Time to reflect

I am on holiday from work this week. During March each year you will always find that there are lots of people away, generally using up their annual leave before the end of the financial year. Probably as many people absent from their desks as in August, but at this time the weather is generally rubbish and depending on when Easter falls there may or may not be lots of kids around. This year the weather is dry and mild and the kids are still in school since Easter isn’t for another month. A week at home with no one else around is great for both recharging those batteries and as an aid to general reflection.

Two events have sought to aid my thoughtful mood this week. The first was Friday when I received a pension statement as part of the process of consulting with staff to move people between NHS pension schemes. In black and white (with lovely coloured charts) it tells me exactly when I joined the scheme and for how long (  up to 14th Feb) I have been paying in. This is scary for someone who has been making contributions for so long. It tells me how much I could walk away with at 55 (if I was still in a nursing job which I am not) at 60 and at 65, both in terms of a lump sum and as an annual pension. This serves to tell me that if nothing changes to the scheme (which of course it will) then by 60 I will have sufficient in the pot to be able to take a pleasant holiday, pay off any remaining debts and perhaps help out my son, plus I could live frugally for the next how many years (given that hubby has no useful pension of his own to speak of) but if I wait till 65 I will receive only marginally more. I guess seeing the facts laid out in this way serves both to reassure and to cause anxiety. In one way the money is there, but is it enough, and what will future changes mean?

The second event was yesterday when I went into work during my leave to collect my long service award from the chief executive and board. For 30 years of NHS service I received a certificate which someone in the HR office had obviously made. The fact that this part of proceedings had been done so cheaply was in a way reassuring (no money wasted). any lack of professionalism in the certificate was made up for the fact that the executive team turned up for the lunchtime ceremony. They laid on a light lunch and small talk wasn’t too painful since there weren’t too many people present. The £150 in vouchers I received (this comes from the endowment fund incase you worry that I am preventing someone receiving a trip to A&E or something) will probably be put towards a new TV; soon we are going to move into the era of the LED TV though it won’t have any 3 D features I can assure you!

Today I am off to lunch with some of the ‘girls’ I managed in a previous life and then, joy of joys the rest of the week will be all about painting the living room ceiling and walls!


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