My job

'Emergency nursing: Just when you think you have seen it all… you really haven’t'

RCNi Award finalist Julie Reeve talks about her 30-year career in nursing

Julie Reeve talks about cruise ships, working in the first NHS walk-in centre and her current role as nurse consultant


RCNi Award finalist Julie Reeve was part of a team that set up an ambulatory emergency care
service at Yeovil District Hospital

What is your job?

I am a nurse consultant working in an emergency department (ED) at Yeovil District Hospital. The role has lots of elements to it, but my key responsibilities are service development, promoting evidence-based practice and teaching the multidisciplinary team. My favourite part of the job is looking after patients autonomously, enabling me to remain clinically credible, which is the greatest asset of the nurse consultant role. Being up to date in front-line clinical work is invaluable to the other parts of the job.

What might you have done otherwise?

I would have enjoyed being a barrister, but I wanted to be a nurse from my early teens. Even with hindsight I think nursing was the right job for me.

Why did you become an emergency nurse?

Just when you think you have seen it all, you really haven’t. Every day is different with new challenges and new rewards.

How and where have you developed your emergency skills?

My career started just over 30 years ago, and after my placement in an ED as a nursing student, my aim was to work in emergency nursing. Initially, I worked on medical and surgical wards to give me a solid foundation before getting a job in the ED at Leicester Royal Infirmary. As soon as I started the job I knew I had made the right choice; it was challenging, exciting and rewarding. I left my job to travel for a few months and then returned to the ED in Leicester for a short time before the travel bug gripped me again. My next job on a cruise ship for P&O gave me the opportunity to combine my love of travel and a nursing role that teaches you to think outside the box, particularly when managing situations in the middle of the sea. I then went to London and worked as a nurse practitioner in Soho at the first NHS walk-in centre, before going full circle back to working in an ED, which is where my true passion lies and where I have been for the past 14 years.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

My role is varied and covers the four pillars of advanced practice. I am able to plan my workload to prioritise whatever I feel is the most important at any one time. The senior management team supports this flexibility, they listen and take our thoughts on priorities and service development seriously, which is rewarding as you can make a real positive difference.

What is the greatest challenge in your job?

Juggling priorities and saying no. The nurse consultant role is complex enough with all its different aspects, but when you work in a small hospital you can end up getting involved in other things as we don’t have stand-alone roles for some jobs as you would in larger organisations.

What achievement makes you most proud?

Being part of a fantastic team at Yeovil that turned around the performance of an ED against the national trend. This achievement was recognised by being finalists in last year’s RCNi awards. Part of this work, which I led on, was the development of a primarily practitioner-led ambulatory emergency care service, which has been instrumental in Yeovil's success.

What advice would you give a nurse starting out in an emergency department?

Embrace the challenge and it will be so rewarding, you can make a real difference to a patient’s experience no matter how big or small. But look after yourself because it can be a tough place to work, there’s no disgrace in asking for help if you need it.

What is likely to affect emergency nurses most over the next 12 months?

Staffing levels, recruitment and retention.

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