This International Nurses Day is focused on a voice to lead, and how nursing can transform the next stage of healthcare. We spoke to Amanda Huddleston, Senior Improvement Advisor, and Andrea McGuinness about their careers in nursing, the highlights and how this has helped shape their Quality Improvement journey to date.
Andrea McGuinness is the Head of Quality Improvement and NHS Quest lead here at Aqua. She has worked in the NHS for over 30 years and is a registered nurse. Andrea has worked with Aqua since 2010 across quality, safety improvement and patient experience programmes. She believes passionately that staff within the NHS have the knowledge and skills to improve patient safety and patient experience.
Amanda – I wanted a career that had a wide range of opportunities that also had the added benefit of helping people.
Andrea – I don’t remember when I knew I wanted to be a nurse, it was always just what I wanted to do. I do have strong memories of my sister getting a nurses uniform for Christmas and me being very jealous!
I started my training just as the BSc programmes rolled out and I was 100% committed to undertaking the original RGN training and not the degree programme. I knew I wanted to practically experience immediately what nursing was, what it could offer me and what I could offer nursing. To this day I have no regrets about the choice I made and value every second of my training. I have since undertaken an MSc and did this at a time and place in my life when it developed me and added the next layer of my learning for the role I was in and the career path I wanted to take.
My nurse training was such an extraordinary experience and introduction to a world where the smallest action, word and expression can make such a profound difference to someone else immediately. I had incredible opportunities to witness first-hand the brilliance of compassionate leadership before it was even a concept let alone the basis of white papers and research terms. I have had the privilege and honour of being with people at the very best and very worst moments of their lives and of being part of life journeys from birth to death. Knowing that I was able to play some part, no matter how small in making a difference to the quality of someone’s experience of care and that they were supported at a time when they needed support makes me want to cry, even today. I cannot think about this wonderful profession and life changing/impacting/affirming career without realising how lucky I am to call myself a nurse.
The roles and specialist skills of nursing have developed and become so highly expert and yet have still maintained and driven the core components of person centred care. I witnesses superb specialist nurses delivering highly skilled care without losing sight of the value of human kindness, empathy, connections and contact. Nurses have taken roles that have radically altered the perceptions and misconceptions of nursing as a profession and have done so with credibility, demonstrating mastery and control of new approaches and responsibilities. Nurses have always had to fight against the vocational label and sometimes academic snobbery that exists and even today nurses still struggle against the patronising descriptions of “angels”, “heroes” and other similar labels. None of these define nurses or nursing for what it is. Nursing is hard work, nursing is technically demanding, nursing is cruel and challenging, pushing you to your physical and mental limits. Nursing requires incredible communication skills, endless abilities to adapt, innovate and deliver results in circumstances that have no rules, no frameworks and no guaranteed outcomes. Nursing needs intellectual and insightful dialogues, decisive and deliberate actions, pragmatic and reflective learning.
Amanda – Being awarded the title of Queens Nurse in 2012 for my leadership and innovation in community nursing. Much to my Grandmas dismay – I am not actually the Queen’s nurse thought!
Andrea – My whole career is full of highlights! Being part of teams that performed brilliantly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when all my old school friends were off on bank holidays, partying at weekends, sleeping at night, every night. Being supported by people who helped me face situations and circumstances that were so traumatic personally and who helped me channel my emotions into being better and better in my career.
I saw Princess Diana when she opened the children’s unit, I was on duty when the London Bridge bomb went off and broke the windows in the ward I was working on, I demonstrated against low pay for nurses, was escorted into the Houses of Parliament to petition and was interviewed by a national newspaper. I spent night shifts talking to a WW II veteran who had been in a Japanese prisoner of war camp and who shared stories and experiences with me that opened a lifelong interest and respect for our war veterans and who thanked me for my interest. I was interviewed by a script writer for a TV series based in a hospital casualty unit. I had my photo taken undertaking nursing observations as part of an article for the Nursing Times. I met friends on day one who are still important and part of my life today-34 years later.
I remember the first time I saw a baby born and the first time I saw someone die. I remember helping families celebrate miracles and remember helping others cope with tragedies and grief beyond my imagination. They all let me be part of their world and the standout thought always for me is they thanked me. Despite whatever circumstances brought us into the room together people were always kind and grateful and thankful. Don Berwick talks about us being visitors in our patient’s lives and he is so right. Patients and families welcomed me in with respect and concern, sometimes more than I deserved. I hope what I get from my nursing career is the value of life and everything good or bad in it. That is all we can learn because life is exactly that. Health, illness birth, death is our journey through life. Take it, grab it, live it, because it is the only one we have.
Amanda – So many things! The desire to make things better is a real driving force. Practically nurses are brilliant problem solvers – the nursing process assess, plan, implement and evaluate is a PDSA in daily action and we use ‘run charts’ and data all the time (obs charts).
Andrea – I was always supported to learn, be curious, to question, to find new and better ways. Nursing require you to be able to plan, do, study and act. It is by its very nature a way of understanding and driving decisions and reviewing the impact of these decisions. Sharing learning, describing success and failure are intricately woven across nursing as a profession. My foundations in caring for patients makes it easier for me to anchor QI alongside person centred outcomes. I recognise how much benefit I get from the formal and informal training I received in communication and engagement skills. I have no doubt whatsoever that my role at Aqua and NHS Quest connect and impact on health and care service users and their families and that my nursing experience and qualifications contribute to every single decision I make towards this. I realise how lucky I am to be able to work with NHS organisations and the teams within them applying my nursing knowledge and skills in this way.
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The Hewitt Review: An Independent Review of Integrated Care Systems