In celebration of International Nurses Day 2021, we have collated a blog series showcasing the amazing nurses that we are privileged to have as part of our team. Here, Hannah Little, Patient Safety Improvement Lead, reflects on her journey into nursing…
I grew up with stories about my granny beaming with pride when she donned her nursing uniform, alongside tales of surprise from members of the family about her strict professional nature. At home, she was as relaxed as a matriarch can get. At the hospital, however, her passion for high standards meant she wouldn’t take any prisoners; everyone knew not to mess about when it came to the care and safety of her patients.
I toyed with the idea of going into nursing a few times over the years, but when it came to crunch time, my 18-year-old self had other ideas. Like so many youngsters, I really had no idea exactly where I wanted my career to go. After a year off to do some paid and voluntary work, and travel solo around Ghana, I completed an Art Foundation course at the University of the Arts London’s Camberwell College. It allowed me to fully unleash my creative side. I got up to all sorts, including joining a multidisciplinary arts collective known as Art in a Van, whose purpose was to take the arts out into the local community.
Though we never actually managed to get a van, we did find innovative ways to reach out to the local community, installing a weekly rotating gallery space in Brixton Village Market among other things. My next venture was to complete a BSc (Hons) in Philosophy, with a focus on ethics, law and subjective experience. The course included an internship at Henley Business School focussed on a ‘Review of the Henley Experience’. This ignited my passion for leadership, innovation and project management – I was hired to lead change and deliver results in an environment where some of the country’s top business theorists do their thing. I also duty-managed a busy restaurant alongside my studies, again allowing me to translate the insights gained at Henley into practice.
With graduation coming up, I looked at various options, including early career schemes within business and the NHS grad scheme. Nothing quite ‘lit my fire’, until I discovered that as a graduate with loosely relevant life experience, I could apply to complete an intensive, fast-track MSc nursing qualification with the University of Nottingham. This was it. Fire lit. The course aimed to get diversely educated people into nursing, to foster clinical leaders with a lifelong passion for people, learning and innovation. Yes!
Now to figure out a way to afford it. Cash strapped from years of higher education, I needed savings and my partner, just about to embark on a PhD with a view to becoming a lecturer, needed teaching experience. We found jobs teaching English in South Korea enabling us to save. It also allowed us to travel. At weekends we’d embark on road trips around South Korea and at the end of the placement we managed to squeeze in a month exploring the Philippines. I’m fascinated by culture and the influence it has on people, societies, systems, politics, and governance. We came home full of new insights, with funds to return to study, and a hunger to embark on our respective new ventures.
All of the experience outlined here has made its way into my nursing kit bag. I think the path my clinical career has taken illustrates this. Creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, sight of the big picture, leadership, cultural insight, project management, teaching, coaching – and most importantly – keeping the experience of service users at the heart of everything, all feature heavily in my different nursing roles. Always have, no doubt always will. In my clinical work, my focus is on what matters to patients and their loved ones. My high standards when it comes to patient safety and living the values of the health service translate across all my roles.
Whilst nursing has moved on since my granny’s fierce professionalism kept those around her on their toes (thankfully it’s more coaching and collaboration focussed now – far more my style), the core values have remained. Nurses advocate for the people they care for, working alongside others to navigate services safely and in a way that keeps human experience at heart. To this end, I hope she would be proud.
Hannah Little RN, BA(Hons), MSc is Patient Safety Improvement Lead at West of England AHSN; Matron for Quality Improvement at Prospect Hospice; Deteriorating Patient Lead at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust