It’s the World Health Organization’s Year of the Nurse 2020, so what better time to celebrate the invaluable role that our amazing staff of nurses and allied healthcare professionals play in the running of St John’s and St Elizabeth Hospital and St John’s Hospice.
It is well recognised that nurses spend more time with patients than any other member of staff and have a unique caring relationship. However, there is also something quite special about our nursing team – in their expertise, in their compassion and in their commitment.
The Nursing team are a diverse workforce made up of 47% from BAME groups and 22% from the EU. Andrew Gallini is St John’s and St Elizabeth’s Chief Nursing Officer, leading up our team of nurses and allied healthcare professionals. With continual oversight of the quality of care he is perfectly placed to explain why our staff are at the very top of their field.
“Our nurses provide a level of care that is about supporting patients with compassion, competence, communication, commitment and courage,” says Andrew. “It’s about respect and dignity for patients, and providing that for them with intelligent kindness. That ranges from doing those little things that mean so much to patients and families as well carrying out clinical procedures that require expert knowledge and competences such as; medication administration, infection control, dressings, psychological support and assessment, or assisting surgical procedures within the theatre environment.”
The unparalleled dedication of our nurses comes from a number of factors, the foremost being that the vocational nature of the profession attracts staff who are committed to their work and instinctively go above and beyond. “One way this particularly comes across is in length of service,” explains Andrew. “Just last year we had two nurses retire; one had been here 38 years, the other 28. A staggering 6.6% of our nurses and allied healthcare professionals have been here for over 20 years, which is quite unusual for the sector.”
There’s something about St John’s and St Elizabeth’s that inspires commitment. “I’ve thought about this in terms of my career choice as well,” says Andrew. “There’s something about the vocation that makes nursing a conscious choice and drives people to consider what they feel they can bring to the care profession to support patients – and working here means they feel they’re contributing much, much more.
“The size of our hospital fosters a sense of belonging – the staff all know each other, are interested in one another and recognise the value that each member brings to the team. They genuinely work together and support each other, creating a general culture and ethos that goes hand-in-hand with the vocational aspects of the profession, and fosters a sense of belonging.”
The end result is that it’s not hard to think of times when the nursing staff have gone beyond the call of duty in their commitment to patients. “There are the frequent examples where people will cover each other’s shifts – and that has become even more pronounced in light of the pandemic. There is a staff nurse on one ward that has worked his annual leave and covered for a number of colleagues when they’ve been off sick recently. That’s happened all over, in lots of different areas.
“I can think of another nurse who continued their shift for much longer than they needed to and actually stayed overnight, just so they could stay with a patient who was very unwell and waiting for the ambulance to be transferred out. Covid-19 has meant we’ve had to be really adaptable, and our nurses have absolutely risen to the challenge – whether that means being redeployed to different wards, undertaking additional training or providing feedback.”
Perhaps a small part of the dedication of nurses and allied healthcare providers can even be traced back to the hospital’s history – what Andrew refers to as a ‘golden thread’ running from Florence Nightingale through to the present day. “We’re very unique; the hospital was set up 163 years ago by Cardinal Wiseman. He asked the Sisters of Mercy, who were working with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, to come and set up St John and St Elizabeth’s Hospital. So we have this amazing ancestral link to someone who really epitomises the selflessness of nursing and patient care.”
The final piece of the puzzle is St John’s and St Elizabeth’s CEO Caroline Fox, whose career path from midwife to head of our hospital has given her a unique insight into the importance of nursing.
“I’m just so very proud,” says Caroline. “I know that there are nurses here delivering such a high level of care, day in and day out. I’m so proud that they do that and that they are enthused by their work. Our greatest achievement is that patients are happy with what we’re doing, and it means we’re getting things right. Our patients are at the centre of everything we do, and our nurses and allied healthcare professionals are at the very core of their experience. It’s the people who are providing outstanding care that deserve our recognition.”