I rather fell into nursing, and have counted that blessing ever since.
I was not what you would call a grade A student at school, and did everything I possibly could not be in the classroom and on the sports field instead. So when it came to choosing a career I was a little behind the curve, and going to university was not an option I considered at the time, even if my grades had been up to it.
I attended St John’s Ambulance throughout my childhood and into my teens, as much for the social aspects as the lifesaving and caring skills it afforded me. This experience led a couple of family members to say “you’d make a lovely nurse” so I thought, why not?
Stoke Mandeville Hospital was just up the road – I could live in but still take my laundry home, I’d get paid, and it wasn’t the worst thing I could think of to do for three years.
The rest, as they say, is history. I loved nursing from the minute I stepped on the ward, and knew I had found my vocation.
It was during my training that I discovered my love of palliative and end of life care.
I applied to the local hospice early after qualifying but they sent me away to get more general experience (and age a bit) which I duly did, working on medical and haematology wards.
I applied again and my determination and passion won the day and I was hired as a nurse in the inpatient unit.
During my years working at the hospice I progressed to take a community nurse specialist role and then became the lead nurse for all community palliative care services. I even went back to the classroom and got a degree in palliative care.
I realised after 10 years I probably should take a break from hospice care and took on the role of modern matron in a neurorehabilitation and brain injury unit – quite a change but great fun.
That was my last clinical role and after several NHS restructures I ended up as the chief operating officer for Buckinghamshire Adult and Children’s Community Services. It was wonderful to have the hospice back in my life and made up a little for not actually nursing myself anymore.
After 25 years in the NHS, and yet another organisational restructure, I decided to try my hand in the charity sector and was lucky enough to become executive director of operations at the Terrence Higgins Trust.
It was a really exciting and varied role, but one day someone pushed an advert across the table to me for chief executive at Trinity Hospice. Well, how could I not be interested? Back to my roots, to my first love as a nurse, and to be CEO – what was not to like?
I was thrilled to get the job and feel every day is a privilege and a pleasure and, although I don’t nurse anymore, hope I support those who do and make a difference still.
Nursing, whether as a registered nurse or an assistant, is the most amazing job in my opinion.
It is not without its challenges or stresses, but to know that during every shift you make a difference to someone somehow is a real reward. Nurses balance compassion with resilience, expertise with empathy, and sorrow with laughter.
I am lucky enough to be allowed to work alongside the inpatient nurses once a year on International Nurses Day and I love it. It reminds me what it takes to nurse day in and day out and reinforces my pride in all we do and the care we provide.
I work with an amazing team, but I have a special place in my heart for nurses. So, on this International Nurses Day I want to say a big thank you to all nurses, but especially the palliative care nurses at Royal Trinity Hospice. Thank you for all you do, the difference you make, and for creating small miracles every day.
This article was originally published on the UK edition of ehospice.