Hello Michelle, what is your role?
My role is a Neonatal Staff Nurse based in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at Glangwili General Hospital, Carmarthen. I work with newborn babies who are born prematurely, unwell or with known clinical conditions that need special management in SCBU.
Who do you work with?
I work with other neonatal nurses, junior doctors, pharmacists, specialist neonatologists (Consultants), laboratory scientists, healthcare support workers, nursery nurses, domestics, outreach nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
Please can you describe your typical day?
A typical day on the ward starts with arriving on the unit and getting changed into our uniforms – this is standard practice for SCBU staff as newborns are vulnerable to infection as they haven’t built up their immune systems yet so we do everything possible to limit this.
Handwashing on the unit happens as soon as we arrive and continues throughout the day. I then join the rest of the team/shift for handover in the office. This is when we get a debrief on the patient's acuity, any safeguarding issues and general information. We are then allocated our room and patients.
On arrival on the ward, we get a detailed handover for each patient. We check drug charts, ID bands and if appropriate IV cannulas.
The shift begins with introducing ourselves to parents if present and checking each cot space – including oxygen, suction, equipment etc. I like to go through each care plan and formulate my plan for the day – this can be logging all feeds (often by nasal gastric tube), drugs required, changes/interventions and any general tasks required of the shift e.g. discharge planning meetings, head scans, eye tests, hearing, IV drugs etc.
What else do you do?
Whenever possible I spend time with parents asking them how they feel their baby is doing and any questions/concerns they may have. Other tasks throughout the day might include online training updates (if we get time!), re-stocking supplies, cleaning incubators, liaising with other members of the MDT and paperwork, lots of paperwork!
Can you tell me a little about your background, please?
My early background is business studies so I have taken a long route to nursing!
After completing a HND in Business & Finance I took a position in IT and contracting within the NHS and worked my way up to become the IT Trainer for the local hospital. I achieved my PGCE/Cert Ed. to teach adults during this time. I then had the opportunity to work on freelance IT training projects so took a leap of faith and started my own IT training business. This was an exciting time and I enjoyed teaching varied training programs to Welsh government and private sector businesses.
Do you have any other achievements?
I was a finalist in the Welsh Women of the Year Awards, Young Achiever category (my one and only time on TV!). Whilst I enjoyed my time in IT my early career in the NHS left me with an ambition to return, but this time in a clinical, patient-facing role rather than administration. I did consider applying for Nursing but with a young family this wasn’t financially viable so I spent hours searching for roles in the NHS that provided on-the-job training.
What other roles have you done in the NHS?
The position of New-born Hearing Screener came up and I was delighted to return to the NHS. This role provided a comprehensive training program that took me from novice to Screener 1 where I trained new staff. It was during this role that I began to take an interest in SCBU as we did hearing tests on infants in special care as well as the post-natal ward. Again, I considered nurse training but it was a big commitment for my whole family.
At this time I noticed a job for Senior Healthcare Support Worker (HCSW) in SCBU. It was a hands-on clinical role and my NVQ Level 3 I had studied during my time in Newborn screening was a job requirement. I was fortunate to get the role and joined at a time when a group of new HCSWs started. We were put through the Skills to Care HCSW training that Hywel Dda Health Board provide and we had it tailored for neonatal care which was defiantly an advantage.
How long were you in the post?
Having been in post for 2 years, Hywel Dda invited applications for the Band 4 Assistant Practitioner 2-year diploma course.
This was a very competitive program to apply for as many HCSWs in post looking for this rare opportunity for career progression. Both myself and my colleague were accepted and completed the program with distinction grades. The diploma allowed for application for Assistant Practitioner roles and/or the route to nursing.
I worked as a Band 4 for 2 years before the applications for a new part-time degree in Nursing came out. This route allowed me to work part as a band 4 and part-time study for nurse training at Swansea University. I considered it but with hindsight lacked some confidence to apply so spoke to the ward manager and she actively encouraged me to go for it.
After a lengthy application process, I was accepted and began my 4 years as a paediatric student nurse. This degree was like any other student nurse program i.e. a combination of academic study and clinical placements in a variety of wards and departments.
The 4 years have flown by and given me so many opportunities to try lots of different specialities e.g., medical, surgical, health visiting, diabetes, outpatients, school nursing and of course neonatal services.
What did you particularly enjoy about the course?
I enjoyed every single placement that I attended and if there wasn’t a job available in SCBU I would have happily applied for general paediatric wards. However, now that I am working as a Neonatal Staff Nurse I am back where I feel that I belong and I am so grateful to HEIW and the NHS for the funding and opportunity to complete my nurse registration and continue my career in our wonderful NHS.
What advice would you give someone thinking about applying for Nursing?
I would recommend anyone passionate about caring for others to apply for nursing. The variety of roles and departments you can work in is unlike any other industry. You can apply for flexible working, fit hours around family commitments, get a generous annual leave entitlement and pension and unsociable hours enhancements make a massive difference to your salary. Yes, you will have to work over Christmas but the atmosphere and camaraderie of your team make up for it.
Would you recommend your role?
I would definitely recommend this role as it allows you to work with the smallest and most vulnerable patients who are brand new to this world and have their whole lives ahead of them.
You have the privilege of working with families who trust their precious newborn within your care and you work as a team with parents/carers to get their babies home with their families.