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The journey to 70@70

The journey to 70@70

Our idea behind 70@70 was to get nurses voices heard and to demand some attention for all the great work that they are doing.

In January 2021 I will have been a nurse for 40 years. It sounds like a long time, and I suppose it is, but my career as a nurse has been such an exciting journey that it hasn’t felt that long.

I began my nursing career at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London when I was 18 – I’d always wanted to be a nurse so it felt like the start of something really big. I began working on the WG Grace Neurosurgery ward (named after the famous cricketer and neurosurgeon) at Bart’s and then moved to Plymouth when my husband was posted there with the Royal Navy.

Again, I worked in the neurosurgery ward at Plymouth District Hospital (as it was at the time) but wanted to do something different so took on a post as a Senior Staff Nurse on a general ward.

Opportunities at Plymouth hospital were limited and I soon found that I wanted to do a bit more, so I returned to London and began working at University College Hospital as a Night Sister and as Sister on the orthopaedic ward.

Grabbing opportunities 

To date I’ve been involved in so many studies that have gone on to change and impact the way we treat patients and their quality of life.

In the late 1980s my husband left the Navy and we decided to go on an adventure but using the skills we both had to make a difference to others.

We volunteered to go and work in Nigeria, where we worked at a Leprosy Hospital. I worked as a nurse, providing care and medical help, and my husband ran the rehabilitation centre.

We stayed there for four years and it was this experience that piqued my interest in research and how much of a difference I could make to patients.

Some of the men had been on the ward for 18 months and were suffering from numbness in their feet and hands which meant they couldn’t feel that their sores weren’t healing.

There were no dressings, antibiotics or shoes for them to wear and no sheets on the beds. They were also suffering from malnutrition. I ordered lots of material to make bed sheets, met with local women to ask them to make nutritious meals for the patients, got the World Health Organisation to build pit latrines and changed how they were being treated.

I began using plaster of paris and resourced lots of crutches so that the patients could move around but not increase the time it took to heal. Overall, their stays reduced to six months. It was the first time I’d experienced staging interventions and finding solutions to problems and being able to see so clearly the difference it could make.

When we returned home I had a baby and then took on a role working at a night shelter from 6-11pm, seeing anyone who came in off the streets who needed medical attention. My experience in Nigeria definitely helped to shape the direction of my career in nursing.

Shaping the future of nursing 

My experience in Nigeria definitely helped to shape the direction of my career in nursing.

Once my children were older I began working as a Health Intervention Manager in Oxford for a GP Practice specifically for homeless people. One of our main focuses was how to reduce incidences of heroin injection and how we could meet users daily.

So we came up with the methadone bus! We would drive around Oxford in the bus, educating users and issuing prescribed methadone six days a week. We got to know people well and we reduced injecting incidents by 13,000 in a year which was a huge success.

I loved the work and the impact we were making but I realised I was fatigued.My compassion levels were being affected and this is something I value so highly as part of being a nurse. I knew I needed a change so I began working back in Plymouth, after a family move, as a Diabetes Research Nurse. I didn’t have any experience of official research at this point or diabetes, so it was my first taste of both.

I worked on a study about statins and the effect they had on diabetic patients’ cholesterol – the results were so overwhelmingly positive that we had to stop the trial. It’s now common practice for diabetic patients to be prescribed statins to help reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke – it blew my mind that I could have such an impact on research and changing people’s lives.

To date I’ve been involved in so many studies that have gone on to change and impact the way we treat patients and their quality of life. I eventually became the Lead Research Nurse for the hospital but at the time no one really understood clinical research and why it was so important.

One day I decided to take matters into my own hands, ordered myself a Matron’s outfit and turned up to a Matron’s meeting to introduce myself to everyone. There was definitely some shock at my being there but I wanted to integrate research with nursing, so I decided on a stealth approach!

Making change happen 

I think that the global pandemic has helped us to break new ground for nurses in research and for people to truly see the impact nurses can make on healthcare.

Following my move into research I then relocated to Portsmouth with my husband and applied to be Lead Research Manager for Western Sussex NHS Foundation Trust. Later I was seconded with the NIHR to be Research Delivery Manager at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London; and then as Deputy Chief Operating Officer for the CRN South London.

It was during this time that I wanted to begin to change the face of research and get more nurses involved. I’d seen first-hand how influential we could be so I wanted to be part of making that happen.

In 2018 Susan Hamer, then NIHR CRN Director of Nursing, Learning and Organisational Development, approached me to help set up the 70@70 programme with the hopes of doing exactly what I wanted to do – encourage more nurses and midwives to get involved in research.

Our idea behind 70@70 was to get nurses voices heard and to demand some attention for all the great work that they are doing. We asked Chief Nurses what kept them awake at night and what help they needed to solve problems; their answers helped form the basis of the 70@70 programme offering.

It took us just over a year to create the programme, designed to accelerate research into practice and, by chance, the global pandemic has also accelerated this. It’s pushed nurses even further into research fields as more and more research is needed into the virus and how we can help to control it.

Developing a clinical academic pathway for nurses presents a real challenge – we need buy in from our trusts and for everyone to understand the benefits. I think that the global pandemic has helped us to break new ground for nurses in research and for people to truly see the impact nurses can make on healthcare.

It took us just over a year to create the programme, designed to accelerate research into practice and, by chance, the global pandemic has also accelerated this. It’s pushed nurses even further into research fields as more and more research is needed into the virus and how we can help to control it.

Developing a clinical academic pathway for nurses presents a real challenge – we need buy in from our trusts and for everyone to understand the benefits. I think that the global pandemic has helped us to break new ground for nurses in research and for people to truly see the impact nurses can make on healthcare.