My job

‘Children just want to know people are listening to them’

Simon Hardcastle is about to take over as head of nursing children’s services hospital in Kettering, Northamptonshire.

Simon Hardcastle is about to take over as head of nursing children’s services hospital in Kettering, Northamptonshire.


What is your current job?

I work as a senior quality improvement manager for NHS England East Midlands Clinical Network on the children and young people’s mental health and emotional well-being programme. My new job starts in October.

Why did you become a children’s nurse?

I had worked with children and young people as a volunteer youth worker with the YMCA on a youth performing arts programme called Ten Sing. As they experienced mental health issues and had a number of medical conditions, I realised I wanted to work in a profession where I can improve health and well-being outcomes for children and young people.

What might you have done otherwise?

I would have pursued a career in youth or social work.

Where have you worked previously?

My career over the past 17 years has spanned across working in the acute hospital setting working in children’s neurology and special needs, children’s emergency department and surgery. This was where I cared for my first child with a life-limiting condition. I then moved to a local child and adolescent mental health service as a participation coordinator, working with the trust to engage staff and service users in service design and improvement. After this, I worked for Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People as a family support nurse. Being able to support children and their families during the most challenging times was one of the most rewarding careers.

I then went on to work as a team leader and operational team leader for two children’s community teams. This was where I started some interim work working with the East Midlands Clinical Network as a clinical lead for transition. This experience then offered me the opportunity to take up my current post. Unfortunately, I realised that I missed working in an operational and clinical capacity and was really excited when the post for head of nursing children’s services came up that I jumped at the chance.

What do you enjoy most about it?

Working in a regional capacity and influencing and leading on the implementation of a national programme of Future in Mind, which has really changed the delivery of services for children and young people’s mental health.

What is the greatest challenge?

Without a doubt, it has been ensuring engagement occurs across whole systems including health, local authority, education and other stakeholders.

What could you change if you could?

I’d like to see true system collaboration where funding isn’t seen as an obstacle, instead that joint working will bring opportunities in changing the lives of children and young people.

What qualities do you think a good children’s nurse should possess?

Communication skills are vital and the ability to be able to read emotions, not only from children and young people, but their parents and carers as well.

What inspires you?

When I hear children and young people share their experiences of using services and the impact this has had on their lives. Children and young people don’t ask a lot. They just want to know that people are listening to them.

What achievement are you proudest of?

A personal achievement is successfully completing my Masters in Advanced Nursing, graduating in 2016. From my work, when my team in Nottingham won the WellChild Best Medical Team Award in 2013 and we met Prince Harry at the awards ceremony.

What advice would give a newly-qualified children’s nurse?

Listen to what children and young people, parents and carers are saying to you.

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