My job

My job: Caroline Chapman

Caroline Chapman, consultant nurse for acuity out of hours at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, explains what makes a good nurse leader.

Caroline Chapman, consultant nurse for acuity out of hours at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, explains what makes a good nurse leader.

Caroline Chapman

What is your job? 

As a consultant nurse for acuity out of hours at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, I lead the hospital at-night service, which delivers emergency out-of-hours care to 1,100 inpatients. I work clinically as part of this team while managing and developing the service. I am also responsible for the strategic and quality improvement aspects of out-of-hours care.  

Why did you become a nurse?

When I was a child I made a hospital wing with emergency department and ambulance out of a toy horses’ stable. When I was at school I did voluntary work in a nursing home – helping with meals and being a companion to the residents. I just knew it was what I wanted to do.

Where did you train? 

Watford General Hospital with the University of Hertfordshire. Once I had qualified, I worked on a medical ward and then an intensive treatment unit (ITU), before moving to Dorset and working in a critical care department. After a few years, I moved to an ITU at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, where I developed my critical care skills, and grew as a nurse and a person. 

I then took a post as a ward manager to set up and run a surgical high care unit. This was demanding and consumed my life for a while, but was satisfying. I was then appointed the matron for hospital at night when an opportunity to train as a consultant nurse came up. I began training to be the first consultant nurse for hospital at night in the country and, with the support of Health Education Wessex, helped to develop the curriculum. It was an exciting time.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It is different every night. Managing inpatient clinical priorities across a large hospital is challenging, but it offers an excellent setting to develop skills and clinical competencies. I love working as part of a great team and the wider Portsmouth NHS Trust family.  

How and where have you developed leadership skills? 

I completed a year-long NHS leadership academy course for senior operational leaders. I was lucky to be selected for the programme, and it helped me to understand my leadership style and transform it. These are skills that I continue to use while working with the ward teams at night.

What are the greatest challenges? 

The unpredictable nature of competing clinical priorities, and preparing a team to develop the skills and competencies it needs to deal effectively with a vast range of clinical emergencies.

What inspires you?

The resilience, compassion and professionalism of our nurses at all stages of their careers. The work we do is emergency-based so we see patients who are very sick and experiencing some of the worst moments in their lives. Being part of a team that can deliver skilled and compassionate care at these times is rewarding and humbling.

What achievements make you most proud? 

Implementing an electronic task-management system that reduced the number of serious incidents by 50% overnight and being given a national award for improving patient safety through technology.

What makes a good nurse leader?

Being tenacious. Negotiating with stakeholders, influencing authentically and working collaboratively across an organisation to deliver a service tailored to patients’ needs. Taking time to listen, educate and be educated.

What advice would you like to pass on to students and junior staff? 

Never underestimate the importance of being the best you can be for patients. Believe in yourself and in others, especially when they do not believe in themselves. Lastly, be kind to each other, yourself and, most importantly, your patients. 

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