Years of experience to bring to the bank

Elizabeth Browse retired after 40 years, but missed caring for patients so much that she returned to her old trust as a bank nurse. She took on roles that were outside of her comfort zone, including helping to pilot a new pathway providing direct pre-assessment. Her highly professional, innovative work was recognised in May when she won Nursing Standard’s Bank Nurse Award.

Picture credit: Tim George

Elizabeth Browse retired in 2010 after four decades of working. However, she soon realised that she missed caring for patients and so returned to her old hospital by offering her services to the bank.

‘Nursing has always been my passion and I felt I could still contribute and put my skills to good use,’ she says.

Ms Browse has made a big impression in her new role – so much so that she won Nursing Standard’s Bank Nurse Award in May.

She joined the colorectal nursing team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Hospital Foundation Trust in London two years ago, where she had trained and spent most of her career.

She worked in a wide variety of surgical areas over her long career and was a ward sister for 28 years. Colorectal surgical nursing eventually became her sole specialty – as it is again today.

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

There were staffing issues when she joined the colorectal team as a bank nurse; recruiting was under way, but help was needed immediately.

Comfort zone

Ms Browse covered four roles in two years – in enhanced recovery, the infusion unit, endoscopy and colorectal cancer – all of which were ‘a little out of my comfort zone’, she says.

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

Her contribution to the team prompted consultant colorectal nurse Fiona Hibberts to nominate her for the Nursing Standard award. All these roles brought new challenges and demanded new skills and ways of working,’ says Ms Hibberts.

‘Liz took them on without complaint and rose to the challenge every time. She seized opportunities and learnt on the job – fast. This has enabled the service to continue without compromising on care.’

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

‘I would also learn about their other health issues and explain in ways patients 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 frail older people, may be difficult.’

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

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

I was slightly concerned that I would be more of a hindrance than a help

‘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.’ Ms Browse helped them understand what would be happening to them, explaining issues such as bowel preparation, the possibility or inevitability of a stoma, surgical wounds and attachments, pain relief, post-op diet and mobility.

‘Elizabeth is what a bank nurse should be’

NHS Professionals senior nurse and head of governance Karen Barraclough was the specialist judge on the Nursing Standard Awards’ judging panel. ‘Elizabeth is a real role model for bank nurses – what bank nurses should be and how they should act,’ she says.

Fellow judge, North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group chief nurse Jan Baptiste praises Ms Browse’s professionalism. ‘She is starting again at a lower level but pouring all that experience back into what she is doing,’ she says.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ director of nursing for adult services Karen Proctor says Ms Browse’s success in the awards is ‘a fantastic achievement’. ‘She has dedicated herself to nursing for many years and we are delighted that commitment has been recognised.’

She says the daily follow-up telephone calls to help patients regain their confidence were ‘extremely worthwhile’.

In her next role, in the inflammatory bowel disease IV infusion team, she cared for a group of much younger patients, most of whom had severe ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

Patients 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 and so patients need meticulous monitoring,’ she says.

‘The service is non-stop, as each “chair” is filled immediately a patient leaves.’

Ms Browse is currently supporting the colorectal cancer nurse specialists by helping 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 learning. Don’t be proud – be receptive and adaptable.’

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

’We have put Liz into many different scenarios and each time her patients comment on her friendly approach and ability to put people at ease, as well as her professionalism,’ says Ms Hibberts.

‘Liz really puts them at ease, with her calm and confident manner. She takes time with each patient, ensuring she understands their situation and clinical conditions as well as their pathways and then supports them through difficult times, diagnosis and challenging surgery.’

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

Ms Browse says she feels lucky to have had the opportunity to learn and develop while continuing contact with patients.

‘It has been daunting at times, but I have loved working without the responsibility of being the ward sister.

‘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’.

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