Learning to get up when you've been knocked down


Learning to get up when you've been knocked down

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Programme manager Sharon Aldridge-Brent moved into her new role in November. Here she tells of dealing with the transition process.

The last six weeks have been busy for Sharon Aldridge-Bent. In November, she moved from her post as senior lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University to become the QNI’s programme manager for future community leaders’ programme.

QNI award winner SharonAldridge-Bent with her mother Doris Aldridge
QNI award winner Sharon Aldridge-Bent with her mother Doris Aldridge. Picture: Kate Stanworth

It is a significant transition for Aldridge-Bent, who held her previous role for more than 12 years. She was drawn to the QNI after seeking a new challenge that would stretch her.  ‘It’s very rare that you see every element of a job and think wow, I really want to go for that,’ she explains.

Although still new in the role, Aldridge-Bent is looking forward to the autonomy it will afford her. ‘I’ve got more scope to be imaginative. In academia, you’ve got lots of restrictions writing so it’s nice to be more creative.’

She is running three projects at the QNI, with responsibility for a fourth. One project is leading phase three of a carers’ project, putting together an educational resource for lecturers in higher education institutions to teach students about carers. Another part of her job is working on a transition to care homes resource.

'We’ve got to work as a whole system’

As one of the authors of the QNI Transition to Community Nursing online resource, this builds on what she’s done in the past.

Aldridge-Bent’s main project however is managing a new leadership development programme for Queen’s Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Future Community Leaders programme will be available to experienced Queen’s Nurses who have the potential to secure a senior board level position in the next 3-5 years. ‘What we’re trying to do is get people thinking about future leadership roles.’

She is adamant that leadership shouldn’t be reserved solely for nurses at the top of their organisations. ‘I’m particularly interested in developing the community nurse force to see leadership at any level. Leadership is not necessarily a chief nurse role. You can be working at band 5 staff level but still be a leader.’

Lack of self-belief

Aldridge-Bent attributes not only a lack of awareness about leadership roles due to community nursing’s full-on working culture but sometimes a lack of confidence too.

This is particularly pertinent as someone from a BME background: ‘As a black woman, standing up and saying you’re not just ‘good enough’ but 'you’re good' is a challenge. There is a lot of evidence in the NHS that sometimes people from BME people can struggle to get heard and move up organisations.’

She would like to see more community nurses – not just those from BME backgrounds – to get up when they’ve been knocked down.

Although it is difficult for Sharon to pinpoint the nursing achievement she is most proud of; funding her three-year BSc health studies degree at night school, qualifying as a nurse and becoming a Queen’s nurse, were highlights for her. 

Nursing journey

Aldridge-Bent began her nursing journey as a student nurse in Barnet and Edgware then went to Harrow as a district nurse for five years before becoming a MacMillan nurse in a hospice at St John’s Wood for five years. She says her next role, a HIV specialist nurse, was particularly tough as she was caring for patients that were dying before the advent of antiretroviral drugs.

‘My mother, who is 88 and a complete royalist, came with me as I received my award. I got a canvas printed that she keeps in the living room’

She draws on a number of inspirations for specialising in community care, not least her sister, a district nurse who was 10 years older and 1970s television drama Angels. Ultimately though, she says a patient-centred approach to patient care drew her to community nursing.

‘I wanted to know more about patients before they were in bed with the condition, about their work, home life, families, pets. The beauty of community nursing is getting to know patients so well that you can detect problems rather than waiting for them to present in a crisis. I could never have been an emergency nurse as you see the patients for 15 minutes and don’t know where they go after.’

God Save the Queen

After leaving clinical practice 13 years ago to lecture, she spends her spare time attending football games as a Manchester United fan as well as dabbling with amateur dramatics as a pantomime star every other year.

Although Aldridge-Bent says that funding will be the biggest issue affecting primary care nurses, collaboration is key: ‘We’ve got to work as a whole system.’