A retired nurse who missed her job so much she returned to work for her trust’s staff bank has been shortlisted for a prestigious Nursing Standard Nurse Award.

Elizabeth Browse

Elizabeth Browse. Picture credit: Tim George

Elizabeth Browse will find out whether she has won the NHS Professionals Bank Nurse award at a ceremony at The Savoy in London on May 1.

The award recognises and rewards bank nurses or nursing teams that perform above and beyond what is expected of them.

After four decades of nursing, Liz retired in 2010. However, after a short break realised she still wanted to care for patients, so she offered her services to the bank. ‘Nursing has always been my passion and I felt I could still contribute and put skills to good use,’ she says.

Two years ago she joined the colorectal nursing team at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Hospital Trust, where she had spent most of her career.

She started training at St Thomas’ in 1970, becoming a surgical ward sister in 1976. After spending six years doing voluntary work overseas, she returned to the hospital in 1986, working in a wide variety of surgical specialities. Colorectal surgical nursing eventually became her sole speciality. She was a ward sister for 28 years.

‘I have done different nursing roles but I found the challenges, stimulation and fulfilment of my sister post unbeatable,’ she says.

When she joined, the colorectal team had staffing issues - they were recruiting but patient demand meant the team needed help immediately. Liz covered four roles in two years - in enhanced recovery, the infusion unit, endoscopy and, currently, colorectal cancer - all ‘a little out of her comfort zone’.

New skills

‘A bank nurse has to hit the ground running - I was slightly concerned I would be more a hindrance than a help,’ says Liz. ‘I had never worked in outpatients before.’

However, her work led consultant colorectal nurse Fiona Hibberts to nominate her for the award.

Elizabeth Browse

Elizabeth Browse at work. Picture credit: Tim George

'All these roles brought new challenges and ways of working, and demanded new skills,' she says. 'Liz took them on without complaint and rose to the challenge every time. She seized opportunities and learnt on the job - fast! This enabled the service to continue without compromising on care.’

Liz helped pilot and fine tune a new pathway providing direct pre-assessment for investigations straight after a patient had seen a consultant. ‘A suspected cancer might have been identified that needed further investigation,’ explains Liz. The pre-assessment meant another hospital visit before the procedure would be avoided.

‘I would also to learn about their other health issues and explain ways they could understand the procedure and how they needed to prepare their bowel for each test. This often involved a fairly complex and rigorous regime over a number of days which for many, particularly the frail elderly, would be difficult.’

The pilot was successful and the service is now established and working well.

She was next deployed as maternity leave cover for the clinical nurse specialist role on the enhanced recovery programme for patients undergoing major abdominal surgery.

‘Everyone is anxious about surgery and most people worry about coming in to hospital,’ she says. ‘Personalities differ, and patients are so varied in their needs, whether expressed or not. Helping them understand by explaining bowel preparation, the possibility or inevitability of a stoma, surgical wounds and attachments, pain relief, post op diet and mobility and the daily follow up telephone calls until their confidence is regained was extremely worthwhile.’

In her next role in the Inflammatory Bowel Disease IV infusion team she cared for a new group of much younger patients, most of whom had severe ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Patients come in on a regular bi-weekly or monthly basis for a period of one to four hours to receive infusions of complex biologics - new drugs that help control extremely unpleasant and occasionally life threatening symptoms.

‘These infusions are toxic and often physiologically compromising so patients need meticulous monitoring throughout their stay,’ says Liz. ‘The service is busy, nonstop, as each ‘chair’ is filled immediately a patient leaves.’

Liz is currently supporting the colorectal cancer nurse specialists by helping to complete health reviews, often by telephone. She says moving to different teams has been a challenge. ‘I felt a bit daunted but you just have to be really open, and reiterate that you are still learning.'

Her experience and skills have proved invaluable to the team but her way with patients has also made Liz stand out.

‘We have put Liz into many different scenarios: direct face-to-face, one-to-one consultations, ward situations and telephone consults, and each time her patients comment on her friendly approach and ability to put people at ease,’ says her nominator, Fiona.

Calm and confident

‘Patients often find it embarrassing to talk about their symptoms and complaints, but Liz really puts them at ease with her calm and confident manner. Liz takes time with each patient, ensuring she understands their situations and clinical conditions as well as their pathway. She then supports them through difficult times, diagnosis and challenging surgery.’

Elizabeth Browse

Liz takes time with each patient. Picture credit: Tim George

Guy’s and St Thomas’ director of nursing for adult services Karen Proctor says: ‘This is a fantastic achievement for Liz and we are exceptionally proud of her. She has dedicated herself to nursing for many years and we are delighted that her commitment is being recognised.

‘Over the years Liz has demonstrated clinical excellence and innovation and always puts her patients ahead of her career. We wish Liz the best of luck at the event and are right behind her.’

As a manager, Fiona also appreciates Liz’s flexibility. ‘She not only goes wherever she is needed but she often comes in at short notice.’

‘Professionalism was an inherent part of training and I have tried to carry that through in all my bank work,’ says Liz, explaining that she has benefitted from her role.

NHS Professionals senior nurse and head of governance Karen Barraclough is the specialist judge on the judging panel. ‘Elizabeth is a real role model for bank nurses - what bank nurses should be and how they should act.’ Fellow judge North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group chief nurse Jan Baptiste adds that she is ‘extremely professional and experienced’. ‘She is starting again at a lower level but pouring all that experience back into what she is doing,’ she says.

Liz, however, feels lucky to have been able to continue to learn and develop while continuing contact with patients. ‘It has been daunting, as it has sometimes been at short notice but I have loved working without the responsibility of being the ward sister,’ she adds.

‘The quality of the nursing specialists with whom I have been working has been consistently excellent - some were originally "my" staff nurses. The role reversal has been fun - it has been a pleasure seeing them flourish.’

Find out more

Nursing Standard Nurse Awards

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