My job

‘Treat each older person as an individual and always care with a smile’

Double award-winning falls coordinator Sharon Love explains why she feels so passionately about her work.

Double award-winning falls coordinator Sharon Love explains why she feels so passionately about her work.

Sharon_Love

What is your job?

I am the falls coordinator for the Northern Health and Social Care Trust in Antrim, Northern Ireland. My role involves managing a service that follows up and screens older people who have fallen in the community. These are patients attended to by ambulance crews, but who are not automatically transferred to an emergency department.

I also review falls incidents and complete investigations on falls that result in moderate-to-severe injury. Educating staff about falls prevention and management is also a core aspect of this service.

What might you have done if you weren’t a nurse?

Growing up, I always had two careers in mind: teaching and nursing. As a result of caring for a close family member I decided to complete my nurse training, but I now get the best of both worlds because education is an essential component of my job.

Where did you train?

I completed my training in the Belfast City Hospital Trust when a state-of-the-art, multi-storey tower building had just opened, creating a lot of excitement. When I drive past this building today, it still brings back fond memories.

How did you come to specialise in the care of older people? 

During my nurse training I had many enjoyable placements working with older patients in acute settings, and I remembered the sense of satisfaction I had when I worked there. Later, when I saw the falls coordinator post being advertised, I recalled older patients who had fallen, and how the associated injuries had devastating consequences for their function and quality of life. With these memories and my fondness of working in the specialty, I decided to apply for the post. I believed that the post could make a difference to our older population and help to reduce their risk of falling.

What nursing achievement makes you most proud?

There are two. The first is the development and establishment of a falls prevention therapeutic exercise and education programme, which won a best patient/client safety initiative award at the Northern Health and Social Care Trust’s Sharing Excellence Leading Quality awards. This programme provides older people with knowledge and skills to reduce falls and the risk of fracture, while the exercises help to improve muscle strength, balance, coordination and bone density.

The second, more recently, is winning the leadership award at the RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year 2017 awards. This is undoubtedly a highlight because it acknowledged how I led the development of falls prevention and management in the trust.

What are the challenges in your specialty?

In the busy world of nursing, falls are not always given enough attention, with many staff saying they cannot prevent them. Thankfully, this situation is changing as more statistics become available about the consequences of falls on quality of life and longevity. Raising the profile of falls through staff education, and appropriate assessment and intervention tools, is becoming an essential part of holistic care for our older population in the community and acute settings.

What qualities do you think a good older people’s nurse should have?

Great communication and interpersonal skills, which also includes listening skills. They must be respectful at all times and have a caring attitude towards older people. Another quality is emotional stability, as caring for older people can be distressing, but these are often balanced by many heart-warming moments.

Outside work, what do you enjoy?

Like most people, I enjoy shopping, eating out and reading a good book. I also enjoy singing and I am a member of a local choir.

What advice would you give to a newly qualified older people’s nurse?

Be passionate and enthusiastic about your work – your patients will appreciate this and know you really care. Show patience, kindness and empathy at all times. Don’t be afraid to speak out, be an advocate for older patients, who may not have a voice. Learn from patients' experiences, reflect on your practice and always strive to be a better nurse. Treat each older person as an individual and always deliver compassionate care with a smile.

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