What is your role?
“I am Senior Sister on Ward 304. It’s a hepatology ward, so we care for patients wih liver problems or gastroenterological issues – things that go wrong with the digestive system. We have a lot of patients with alcohol problems and so on.
“As Senior Sister it is my job to look after the team of nurses on the ward, along with two junior sisters. I have to make sure there are enough staff members on the ward, I have to maintain clinical standards, make sure our hygiene standards are kept and that we meet infection control regulations.
“I also have to work closely with consultants and patients’ relatives.”
Why did you want to do this job?
“I was adopted and my adopted sister was a state-enrolled nurse and some of my adopted aunts were in the nursing profession so I suppose it rubbed off on me. At first I wanted to become a nursery nurse: people laugh when I say that now.
“Over the years, I have worked in surgery, intensive care, outpatient hand clinic, trauma, respiratory and then the possibility of becoming a sister here on this ward came up and I went for it, been here since.
“I get on with most people; you either take me or you don’t but I think my approach – what I call ‘tough love’ – is something they respond to. You learn how to approach each new patient and when you have permission, you know, to be a bit more open with them, you can see them respond, even the shy ones who don’t really want to talk – when they hear you joking with others they start trying to join in.
“It’s the way you can make that difference in someone’s life; that’s what I love, it’s what I’ve always loved.”
What do you like about working at Derby Teaching Hospitals in particular?
“I love this job, I still love working here. I’ve been doing it 40 years and I’ll still get here early, I’ll still come in on my days off. I love the patients here. Many of them come in again and again and you get to know them, they’ll come in and ask ‘Is Tommo in today?’ and this place is like a second home to me. I get it in the streets when I go around town: ‘Alright Tommo!’ and it’ll be a patient I’ve treated.
“The staff we have here at Derby are brilliant, such a good mix of personalities. I like to think I’m tough but fair and I think you have to be, really. You know, the fact that you now have to be a Health Care Assistant for six months before you go into nursing is the best thing to have happened. It is not all Holby City here; you’ve got to wash patients, you’ve got to do all the little things you might not have read about and those six months will show you whether it’s something you really want to do.
“But you come here to Derby and work with the staff and the rewards are great; I love it. Such a good job, I’m so proud of what I do. And you are recognised for your efforts here. I hit 40 years here and there was a celebration night. I didn’t go because it’s not my sort of thing but they do show appreciation.
“Of course, then the girls on the ward gave me the certificate themselves and I welled up; it means so much to know you’re cared about like that.”
Why did you decide to take part in the programme?
“I think nursing itself has got harder over the years. It used to be that nurses were respected more instinctively. But now you see the NHS in the press, getting a bashing and I think people have maybe lost that respect. People come in and they expect more, or demand more.
“You have to be quite strong as a nurse now and I wanted people to see that. But for a long time I avoided doing it; I’m quite shy, honestly. This uniform is my armour and outside the hospital I’m not as strong. I’m a bit rough and ready, I’m not a posh nurse so I was sure they wouldn’t really want to film me but they said they wanted characters.
“I wanted people to be able to see not just this ward and the people who work on it but the patients. No one is born a drinker or drug addict. There is always something that happens to each person which causes it to begin. There is always some trigger and these are people, always people, different personalities, some tough, some aggressive and confused but these nurses here, they find the people inside. That’s the job.”
How was it working with the camera and crew?
“It was odd. They were a nice group of people, the crew. It was difficult because the ward is very busy. I would try to get as much done as I could before they arrived. At first I was scared being on film but then you stop trying to perform and I thought, right, I’ll just do my job as I would normally and they can get what they want.’ That’s when it got easier.”
How do you think viewers will react to the programme – especially the parts you appear in?
“I hope that it will show other nurses or people thinking about becoming nurses that this is a good job. And that this ward is a good ward to work on. There is a lot of fulfilment: you are helping to improve someone’s life at the end of the day. Just because what they have done is often self-inflicted doesn’t mean it’s their fault, or that they are somehow not a person. You have to get inside their mind, that’s the real skill, that’s maybe what nursing is really all about.
“I think people might be a bit shocked when they see my bits. I come across as sharp but I am honest and I’ll talk to patients as people. You know the scene where I’m shaving that bloke? Well that was a good day. You do something like that, you make that kind of connection with a patient and at the end of the day I’ll pump my fist and say, ‘Yeah!’. It’s a good feeling to reach out to someone like that.
“Maybe people will think the way I am is tough but it’s tough love. Over the years as a nurse your personality changes. I’m much stronger and more confident now. You get patients coming in here and they’re effing and jeffing and some nurses can’t take that. But you get stronger and you learn how to talk to patients. You can’t patronise them, they’ll spot it straight off. But I have no airs and graces and patients respect that, they like it. So I hope people will see that.”
What are the moments you’ll remember from the experience?
“I’ll remember the walking. They were trying to get this shot of me arriving to work early, which I do. But I got there even earlier that day so they could get this shot and then I couldn’t get it right. They were telling me to slow down, then they were saying walk naturally, so I did but, you know – I walk fast!
“We got there in the end but you’ll not know how much time we put into that bit of walking.”