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As part of our celebrations for International Nurses Day 2021 we are pulling together a series of profiles which highlight the innovation we see from our nursing teams across the hospital.

We are so proud of everything our teams have done over this most challenging of years.

We hope you enjoy reading about the experiences of our nursing staff here, more profiles will be added as we receive them ...

Barbara Winter-Goodwin, Senior Renal Research Nurse

I am a Senior Research Nurse and have worked within the Research and Innovation department for 10 years. My usual focus is renal trials, ranging from the treatment of renal anaemia to offering new treatments which may help prevent people with kidney disease from needing dialysis.

Since the first lockdown there was a seismic shift in the way our team worked. We all pulled together to concentrate on urgent public health studies to try and gain a greater understanding of COVID-19 and how to treat it.

We had to work at a fast pace, getting to grips with rapidly changing trials, with new treatment arms regularly being added and existing ones being removed. As evidence emerged, the treatments were either adapted into standard practice or discounted. Usually this process takes years, so it was amazing to see what can be achieved in such a short space of time if we all work together.

The COVID trials involved all different specialties and we liaised with numerous members of staff across the trust, many of whom hadn’t had any prior knowledge of research. There was a real feeling of being in this together and never before has research been so well received.

Now that the profile of research has been raised, we hope as a department to build on this and encourage involvement from every area to offer out patients the best and most innovative research.

Dennise Hill, Senior Research Nurse Surgical Portfolio

It is a huge privilege to be part of the nursing profession, working at Dorset County Hospital as a Senior Research Nurse in the Research and Innovation Department with colleagues from multi-disciplinary backgrounds and professions. Our mission statement: “Quality and relevant research to deliver outstanding care for people in ways which matter to them” has been particularly relevant throughout the COVID-19 pandemic which has highlighted the importance of research and collaboration to find lifesaving treatments as quickly as possible on a global scale. As a profession and a team I am very proud of the new ways of working we have embraced in order to promote the wellbeing of our patients and their families whilst supporting our colleagues.

Frida Best, Senior Haematology Research Nurse

I’m research nurse working with special interest in Haematology. My background is in theatre and anaesthetic nursing, which has given me a broad clinical set which has been of great benefit in the field of research nursing. Being a research nurse is really a fantastic opportunity to utilise already amassed clinical skills whilst constantly having an opportunity to learn more.

The COVID pandemic has changed the way we work, much to the better. The collaboration between the clinical specialities has been phenomenal and everybody has embraced the effort to develop new vaccines and COVID treatment trials. I have been working with research teams across the county and with nurses from all backgrounds. Being a part of a wider research community and meeting nurses and other staff from across specialties working together on one mission has been very satisfying professionally.

Tracy Glen, Senior Oncology Research Nurse

As a Senior Oncology Research Nurse the COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges to my role.

Whilst it was extremely important to prioritise the COVID-19 research studies it was also equally as critical to be available to support the patients who are on cancer clinical trials.

It has been very rewarding and interesting to work on the clinical trial SIREN (Sarscov2 Immunity & REinfection EvaluatioN): The impact of detectable anti SARS-COV2 antibody on the incidence of COVID-19 in healthcare workers.

We have recruited many colleagues in the hospital who have volunteered to have regular blood and swab tests and the results are helping us to understand whether prior infection with SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) protects against future infection with the same virus. It has been a wonderful opportunity to work collaboratively with the rest of the Research Team and also to meet with and promote the importance of research to my hospital colleagues.

I believe that this year has shown everyone how important it is to embrace clinical research in order to improve patient outcomes.

Jenny Birch, Senior Cardiology Research Nurse

The focus this year for International Nurses Day is innovations in nursing and how the pandemic has offered opportunities to reset practice and ultimately change the future of healthcare. The RECOVERY trial is an excellent example of this. I am a senior research nurse and usually run and deliver clinical trials within cardiology but since the advent of COVID-19 I was part of the team working on the urgent public health studies.

The RECOVERY trial was set up in nine days and quickly became the largest global study to investigate therapies for the novel coronavirus. One of its greatest achievements was the discovery of the benefits of the cheap and widely available drug dexamethasone. Its use has so far saved more than 22,000 lives in the UK and an estimated 1 million lives worldwide. Being part of the team that rapidly changed local practice by embedding the simple study design into the clinical pathway has highlighted what, when done collaboratively, research can achieve.  I am hopeful such innovative practice will continue to shape future healthcare developments.

Laura Bough, Senior Renal Research Nurse

This has been an extraordinary year to be a Research Nurse.  My speciality is renal research, however this last year our COVID trials have been my focus.

It was incredible to be working alongside my colleagues as part of the frontline team.  Knowing that our work has contributed to life saving outcomes for people around the world is still a little mind blowing!  But this is research – and the work that we do is nursing in a different way.  It’s looking forward, challenging current practice, and working in new ways, all whilst providing the very best care to our patients.  The legacy of COVID is the positive change in how our team works together, and seeing colleagues shine in their roles.  Am so happy to be opening new renal trials again – it really is the best job in the world!

Lisa Santos, Senior Surgical Research Nurse

After 30 years working within the different specialities of the theatre department, I decided a change was needed.

I initially worked as a bank nurse with Research and Innovation, this gave me an insight into how I could utilise my vast clinical experience within research. I was successful in being appointed as a Senior Research Nurse, covering the Surgical, Anaesthetic, Trauma and Orthopaedic and Vascular portfolio.

I have found Research and Innovation to be an extremely dynamic environment, this along with the autonomy afforded makes a fantastic combination. There are a specific set of skills a Research Nurse needs, and I have found the diversity incredibly appealing, from successfully recruiting participants, collecting data, gaining knowledge of agencies, regulatory bodies, protocols and gaining informed consent.

I feel very fortunate to be part of a team that is driven to facilitate and deliver high quality, robustly evidenced health research. A team who are committed to improving the health outcomes of our patients and the public, with patient care and advocacy at the centre of our role.

Natalie Harper, Respiratory Consultant Nurse

The World Health Assembly named 2020 the Year of the Nurse to mark the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale‘s birth and to advance nurses' vital role in transforming healthcare around the world. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen what a year it was to become and just how much the crucial role of nurses really did come to the fore in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

This saw the change of how many of us had to work, myself included and I would like to focus on the many positives within all of this.

I am very proud to say that our respiratory service within the hospital continued both for those who were unfortunately acutely unwell and required admission as you would expect, but also for those who make up a large percentage of our workload as outpatients in an attempt to avoid admissions and keep them well inside their own homes.

These patients, the majority of whom not only have chronic respiratory issues but also various other co-morbidities are often rather complex in their health needs, continued to receive an uninterrupted service. Initially this changed from being face to face to phone consultations and as time went on this progressed to a combination of both these and virtual video consultations also. This was due to a great deal of innovative teamwork and good communication along with learning new skills and utilising new platforms to enable this way of working. It is never easy to change to new ways of working but then it is said that ‘nothing that is worth doing ever comes easily’. 

I was very fortunate to be involved in helping to set up our hospital vaccination hub. This project as you will know was extremely successful but was fundamentally due to the hard work and dedication of many people. It was however incredibly rewarding to know that nurses within the Trust helped from the project's inception to its conclusion and in all honesty the project would not have been sustainable without all of those involved, demonstrating the impact that we as a profession can have.

Over the last year in an attempt to promote more integrated working with our primary care and community partners, (which was always the overall goal), these ways of working have opened more doors and I am now working closely with the CCG on projects which have been expedited due to the national and international situation. This is always with the patient at the centre of the journey and us as nurses their advocates, and done in order to continuously find ways to adapt and improve the services that are offered to them.

Both locally and nationally, I believe that whilst many things were put on temporary hold, for obvious reasons, the time has come to recommence any work that may have been considered or already underway. The recovery period should be made easier with new ways of being able to join forces via a virtual route which has potentially widened our networks and access to working with many other organisations which generally speaking is all for the greater good.

This is therefore a very exciting time for us as healthcare professionals and in particular as nurses to offer our population continuously improving and high standards of care.

Having recently reflected on the history of nursing for my doctoral studies I am immensely proud to be part of a profession which has developed to the level we see today. Nurses have such opportunities to promote changes in all spheres of healthcare, but we need to be included at the right level to be able to do so. Shirley Chisholm, a truly inspirational and innovative woman of her time once said “if you don’t have a seat at the table, bring your own chair”. In essence however big or small the table may be unless we are sat around it we will not have the chance to showcase our skills.

Ness Fleming, Senior Research Nurse

I have been a research nurse for nearly 10 years. I have been lucky to work on several large-scale International Clinical trials, predominantly focussed on the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of being a research nurse is playing a small part in innovative practice.  Knowing that any trial has the potential to positively impact the lives of our patients, and improve healthcare outcomes.

Ordinarily, like most teams, we all have our usual portfolios, studies, specialities, clinics, and roles to play. Working of course with the wider multidisciplinary team – without which, our studies would not succeed.

I guess in March 2020 we were just comfortably doing what we do. Then along comes a pandemic! I could never have imagined how fundamentally COVID-19 would transform our department.

Everything we thought we knew needed a different perspective. Everything we didn’t know, took priority. COVID-19 trials were mandatory and priority! For the first time ever we were truly working together. Our team felt more bonded and inclusive. Everyone in it together, being heard, wanting to do their best and play their part! Even the setting up of these studies was somehow different, working to urgent timescales, using our own initiative to a certain extent, problem solving, and taking on new roles.

COVID-19 has left with the same shock and sadness as the rest of the world.  But I feel it has also left us a legacy of renewed departmental pride, in the knowledge we can achieve amazing things when we truly work together.

I’m also incredibly proud of our staff here at DCH, and how enthusiastic they were to engage with research - The SIREN study.

Sarah Williams, Lead Research Nurse

As a Lead Research Nurse, I manage and support a team of registered clinical research delivery staff which is made up of a diverse range of professionals including nurses, a midwife and most recently a paramedic.

Moving away from the more traditional ‘research nurse’ role and shaping our specialist workforce to become more diverse and inclusive has been a deliberate strategy. It is anticipated this will provide greater opportunity for collaboration, professional development and ultimately, offering clinical research opportunities to more of our patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly tested our team and I am extremely proud of how each and every individual has stepped up and found innovative ways to adapt, become more flexible and work together across specialty and professional boundaries. The RECOVERY Trial is just one example of how this collaboration has seamlessly worked to deliver the most innovative treatments to patients where no treatments existed.

At Dorset County Hospital the team out performed all expectations and were one of the top-performing sites in the UK! Pressing the re-set button post-COVID, as a clinical research delivery team, collaboration and supporting each other has naturally emerged as a focus which is already promoting a greater sense of wellbeing within the team as well as giving resilience to our workforce. Ultimately it is our patients who will benefit from these changes as we strive to find more innovative effective treatments. 

Hilary Maxwell, Gynae-Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist

Well it’s certainly been a year for nurses (and all healthcare professionals), but here we celebrate Nurses’ Day. A proud moment for all nurses.

I’m Hilary.  I’ve been nursing now for nearly 15 years.  I am a Gynae-Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist and on top of my role I am CEO/Chair of GO Girls Charity, supporting women with gynaecological cancers, and also Chair of the Nursing Sub-Group of the British Gynaecological Cancer Society (BGCS).

Women’s gynaecological health and cancer care have been my passions for many years and I am proud to nurse in an area that is often woefully underfunded and marginalised; yet we make up half the population.

I had always wanted to be a nurse, but my initial life path took me on different routes; these routes gave me breadth and depth of experience and resilience.  I had my own significant personal health issues in my 20s and sadly my partner also passed away from cancer; yet despite these setbacks I fought on – for me this demonstrates what nurses are made of - not all sugar and spice – but true grit, commitment, courage and most importantly compassion.  An ability to walk in others’ shoes, ensuring the patient and their family are at the heart of all we do, as well as providing excellent evidence-based care.

So if you are thinking about nursing, I hope my story will inspire you…what are you waiting for?