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Kath Evans: ‘Working to improve child health is everyone’s business’

Kath Evans, director of nursing for babies, children and young people at Barts Health NHS Trust, discusses the importance of asking children how their care could be improved, and why nurses need good role models.

Kath Evans, director of nursing for babies, children and young people at Barts Health NHS Trust, discusses the importance of asking children how their care could be improved, and why nurses need good role models.

Why did you become a children’s nurse?

I wanted to be a nurse since the age of 12. I volunteered with the British Red Cross, learned first aid skills and thought nursing would be a good career pathway.

What might you have done otherwise?

I would probably have gone into teaching or been a freelance embroiderer, which is something I loved as a child.

Where did you train?

I studied general nursing at what is now Cardiff University Hospital, formerly Cardiff School of Nursing. I then gained my registered sick children’s nursing qualification at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

What is your job?

I am the director of nursing for babies, children and young people at Barts Health NHS Trust in London. I am also the experience of care lead – maternity, infants, children and young people – with NHS England. I am also an accredited coach at the Institute of Leadership and Management.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I have been able to champion the importance of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Over the past five years, myself and other senior healthcare leaders have ensured that children and young people are asked consistently if they would recommend services as part of the NHS Friends and Family Test.

I have worked with the Care Quality Commission to ensure that we now have a biennial children and young people’s inpatient and day surgery survey. This means children are asked about their experiences of care, and this is vital because we know they tell us different things to those they tell their parents and carers. They have told us we could communicate more effectively with them, help manage their pain better and be more playful in our interactions with them.

I have also embraced social media in my professional life. It has given me the ability to connect across the child health community, and beyond child health to commissioners and national leaders, to ensure that everyone realises that working to improve child health is everyone’s business.

What achievement are you proudest of?

We established the NHS Youth Forum in 2013 to develop a children and young people’s advisory and action group for NHS England. This national network of young healthcare champions helps to develop national health policy and deliver innovative ways to address issues that matter most to young people.

The forum has demonstrated effective system leadership in engaging young people and, as a result, many more local youth forums have been established. What has been most rewarding is seeing how often vulnerable young people, such as those in care or with complex health needs, flourish when they are listened to and when they see improvements happening that they have pushed for. It is wonderful to see their confidence grow. 

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

They should recognise the importance of childhood and that we must do everything we can to promote children’s well-being in its broadest sense. It is not purely about the physical interventions that we perform, whether it is drug administration or taking observations; it is also about how we engage with children.  

Outside work, what do you enjoy doing?

The #NHS1000miles challenge – which is being held to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS by encouraging people to walk, ride or swim 1,000 miles – is keeping me busy. Trying to fit in those half-marathons is a challenge.

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

Find role models – talk to more senior children’s healthcare professionals, whether they be nursing, medical or allied health professional colleagues. Talk to them about your experiences. Never go home and worry about something that happened at work; there is always someone you can talk it over with.

 

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