My job

60 seconds with pain management nurse specialist Jenny Wright

Jenny Wright, a clinical nurse specialist in pain management at London’s Harefield Hospital, talks about the challenges of the job and defining moments in her career

Jenny Wright, a clinical nurse specialist in pain management at London’s Harefield Hospital, talks about the challenges of the job and defining moments in her career

Jenny Wright says addressing fears
at the earliest opportunity helps
deal with any eventuality.

Jenny Wright qualified as a nurse in 1988 in Queensland, Australia. After specialising in cardiology and acute coronary care, she came to the UK in 1995 and spent 12 years as an intensive care nurse at London’s Harefield Hospital, part of the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust. Married with two children, her interest in pain management began after she worked bank shifts in the trust’s pain management service. She has been in her current role as clinical nurse specialist in pain management at Harefield for nine years, completing a master’s degree in pain management in 2013. She has also worked in research and has been project manager for several educational programmes.

What are your main work responsibilities? 

Daily consultations with acute and chronic pain patients in a hospital setting, as well as teaching, mentoring and supporting staff to provide their patients with pain management strategies and education. 

How did you get your job? 

As an experienced intensive care nurse, I was offered the opportunity to work bank shifts to cover sick leave in the pain management service. After realising how much I loved working in the pain management service I took up a permanent position there.

Who are your clients and patients?

Inpatients and outpatients referred from all specialties at the hospital, including transplant, surgery, respiratory, cardiology and medical. Post-operative pain and long-term conditions make up the vast majority of the patients I see.

What do you love about your job?

No day is ever the same, and no two patients are ever the same. Diagnosing the possible reasons for pain – where it comes from, what is causing it – enables me to use my clinical assessment and consultation skills to ‘unpick’ what is happening for a patient. It’s like being a detective. I also enjoy the results of my work – specialised pain training helps patients recover or gain some control over their lives again.

What do you find most difficult?

Seeing patients with long-term conditions who are struggling and require lots of support. 

What is your top priority at work?

Educating patients about how they can best help themselves and manage their pain, and ensuring they feel supported and empowered to do so.

How have you developed your skills in this role?

As an experienced cardiology and ITU nurse, the practical skills I gained in assessing and managing patients have been very helpful in my current role. Studying at master’s level was also a defining moment in my career. I realised how vast the topic is, and how poorly understood pain still is despite the scientific advances that have been made.

What has been your most formative career experience?

I was introduced to nursing at the age of 14 after my brother was in a serious car accident and became a quadriplegic. I spent 11 months seeing the care and attention delivered to him, which inspired me to study nursing.

Also, my aunt was a matron in a mining community in the western outback of Queensland. Along with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, she was responsible for providing care for hospital patients and miners at a remote uranium mine. She was invincible. I never wanted to do anything else.

If you hadn’t become a nurse, what would you have done instead?

I always loved debating and supporting social causes. My school friends said I was most likely to become a politician, hence my nickname Polly, which has stuck over the years, and I still enjoy a good debate or argument.

What will be your next career move?

I would like to continue my career in pain and manage larger teams of pain management nurses within a larger organisation. As a recently qualified nurse prescriber, I am looking forward to using all my skills and experience in my new prescribing remit.

What is the best lesson nursing has taught you?

To keep smiling through the less attractive side of working as a nurse, and to expect the unexpected. Addressing any fears or areas for further development at the earliest opportunity will also help prepare you to deal with any eventuality.

What career advice would you give your younger self?

Coming to the UK as a specialist nurse in cardiology, I thought that would be the focus of my career. But being involved with and surrounded by inspirational, motivated people changes things, and enables you to experience things you could only have dreamed of.


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