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The inspiring nurses who make a difference in their modern roles

Nursing Standard is marking the RCN’s centenary year with a series celebrating the range and impact of modern nursing roles across the UK. In the third of our series, Alison Whyte talks to three nurses whose dedication and vision is having an effect in the north of England

Nursing Standard is marking the RCNs centenary year with a series celebrating the range and impact of modern nursing roles across the UK. In the third of our series, Alison Whyte talks to three nurses whose dedication and vision is having an effect in the north of England

Nurses today perform an astonishing range of roles with energy, imagination and dedication. The three individuals featured here each show a different aspect of nursing: Kirstie Wallaces high-octane job involves managing aircraft and surgeons, Amy Louise Parkes is enabling people with dementia to have more independence, and Anna Richardson has created a ward culture that is open to challenge from patients.

RCN northern regional director Glenn Turp says: In the North East and Cumbria we have a passionate and committed nursing workforce, which delivers consistently excellent care despite growing pressure on the independent sector and the NHS. It is

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Nursing Standard is marking the RCN’s centenary year with a series celebrating the range and impact of modern nursing roles across the UK. In the third of our series, Alison Whyte talks to three nurses whose dedication and vision is having an effect in the north of England

Nurses today perform an astonishing range of roles with energy, imagination and dedication. The three individuals featured here each show a different aspect of nursing: Kirstie Wallace’s high-octane job involves managing aircraft and surgeons, Amy Louise Parkes is enabling people with dementia to have more independence, and Anna Richardson has created a ward culture that is open to challenge from patients.

RCN northern regional director Glenn Turp says: ‘In the North East and Cumbria we have a passionate and committed nursing workforce, which delivers consistently excellent care despite growing pressure on the independent sector and the NHS. It is great to shine the spotlight on some nurses in our region who are leading the way when it comes to innovative, good practice.’


Anna Richardson, ward manager at the Peter Smith Surgery Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, has led the implementation of a patient safety project called ThinkSAFE.

‘Our unit provides elective orthopaedic surgery – mainly joint replacements. I have tried to develop a philosophy of open, honest and transparent care and to make sure our patients have a positive experience while they are in hospital.

‘At the beginning of 2015 we joined the ThinkSAFE research project along with four other trusts in the region. There is evidence that patients can improve their own safety while in hospital but they can be afraid to raise concerns. ThinkSAFE is about creating a culture whereby the patient feels comfortable asking questions and challenging staff.

Anna Richardson

‘ThinkSAFE provided a patient safety video, a patient-held logbook and a care diary. There is also a mobile phone app which patients or their families can download.

‘We made our patients bespoke logbooks with information about wound care, preventing deep vein thrombosis and reducing the risk of falls, and we provided information about John’s Campaign [a campaign to enable families of people with dementia to stay with them in hospital] to reassure patients that we welcome the involvement of carers.

‘I was responsible for preparing staff so that they embraced questioning and didn’t feel criticised. I have an excellent team of 40 staff who want to deliver the best possible care. I encourage them to take every opportunity to engage with patients. We also actively encouraged patients to raise concerns. If they haven’t seen a member of staff wash her hands we say it is fine to ask her to wash them again.

‘Lessons have been learned. One patient wrote in his logbook that he was having panic attacks about his forthcoming surgery. Now we make it clear that a staff member can help to alleviate any anxieties before surgery.

‘Patient feedback has been positive and it has helped to build a rapport between staff and patients.’


Kirstie Wallace, transplant co-ordinator, Institute of Transplantation, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, has been a recipient cardiopulmonary transplant co-ordinator and team leader for eight years.

‘I liaise closely with a transport company who can arrange aircraft to transport organs from anywhere in the UK and northern Europe in the quickest time possible. When I qualified I never imagined I would become an expert on jet planes and how long it takes to fly the length of the country, or that I could feel physically and mentally exhausted and totally elated at the same time.

‘It was during a placement on the post-op heart and lung transplant unit at the Freeman in 1991 that I had my light bulb moment. I was suddenly part of something very special and exciting. Here was a multi-disciplinary team providing the highest standard of care in an innovative way. It was my mission from then on to be part of that team.

Kirstie Wallace

‘As a transplant research nurse and on-call co-ordinator I learned data collection and analysis while setting up and co-ordinating a transplant. I have carried out research on the impact of transplants on patients’ working lives and presented the findings at an international conference.

‘My job could not be more different from being on a ward – you are completely alone in the middle of the night, managing aircraft and surgeons.

‘I now lead seven transplant co-ordinators and I spend a lot of time educating and supporting new staff. We are unique in taking referrals for heart or lung transplant patients from throughout the UK, as well as providing a paediatric transplant and a congenital heart service.

‘We provide a 24/7 on-call service and there can be up to 15 offers in one night. If we decide to accept an organ, we bring in the recipient, organise the organ retrieval, and arrange the theatre team, while remaining calm.

‘Plans for the future include a Reiki clinic to relieve anxiety, insomnia and depression in post transplant patients. We are also creating a website which will include a virtual tour of the hospital and interviews with post transplant patients and members of our team.

‘It is a privilege to work with such an expert and committed team and to accompany our patients and their families on their amazing journey.’


Amy Louise Parkes, staff nurse and dementia educator, orthopaedic trauma ward, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, led the introduction of finger foods and other improvements for patients with dementia.

‘Many patients with fractured hips have dementia. They are extremely vulnerable and are dependent on nursing care.

‘Patients with dementia get disorientated and may not trust the staff. They need one-to-one care.

‘Making sure patients are well nourished is extremely important on a surgical ward. Many of our patients cannot use cutlery and they have problems with their vision. When they are fed by nursing staff they cannot judge how quickly the food is coming to their mouth so they say they don’t want to eat any more.

‘I thought that finger food might enable patients who had been struggling with knives and forks to feed themselves. My ward manager welcomes new ideas and was very supportive. We discussed the idea with the catering staff and we agreed to run a trial.

Amy Louise Parkes
Amy Louise Parkes

‘I did training for 40-50 staff on types of dementia, the importance of nutrition, changes in taste and how to increase calorie intake. The staff on my ward were very open to making a difference to patients.

‘Our trial had a positive effect. We noticed that patients who had eaten little when they were fed by nurses seemed happier at mealtimes and were enjoying their food.

‘The main challenge was identifying patients who would benefit from finger food, but this was ironed out during ward rounds and handovers.

‘I put up displays about why nutrition is important for dementia patients and we introduced yellow crockery to enable the patients to see their food more easily. This resulted in a 30% increase in food being eaten.

‘We created a picture menu for the new finger food menu, which also resulted in patients eating more. Then we developed a pyramid-shaped snack menu for the patient’s table so they can point to a tasty snack at any time.

‘Promoting independence and dignity is the key to good nursing. The older population is increasing and it is important to get it right for all of them’.


Alison Whyte is a freelance journalist

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