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ROLE MODEL

Childcare with a difference

For Jodie Hiscutt, follow-up is a key part of care so she found a way to be a part of the process

Nurses often don’t get to see the entire patient journey. They may care for a sick child in hospital but, once he or she is discharged, they no longer get to see patients in their own home or help them cope with the transition.

This is precisely why Jodie Hiscutt was attracted to becoming a WellChild Children’s Nurse and took a role as a ventilation nurse specialist in October 2011.

“It appealed because it was something completely different,” she says. “I didn’t want to lose my acute nursing skills but wanted more patient contact in the community. It was a challenge for me because, since I’d trained in 1997, I’d always worked in Southampton General Hospital - firstly on the paediatric medical unit and then the high dependency unit.”

The WellChild charity provides health, emotional and practical support for sick children across the UK, and has provided support and funding to establish the role of 16 nurses, enabling them to work in both an acute setting and in the community. Its pilot Children’s Nurse programme began in 2006, and its success has resulted in the creation of permanent posts across England, Scotland and Wales. Two posts will be added this year.

Ms Hiscutt is able to provide seamless care from the beginning of a child’s hospital journey until he or she is well enough to go home. She helps them and their families until she is no longer needed. Working across six counties - Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey, and the Isle of Wight and Channel Islands - she manages her caseload with colleague Ruth Brinkley. The number of patients they care for is constantly increasing; they currently have 60, seven of whom are inpatients.

In talking about her transition, Ms Hiscutt says: “It was fantastic. I was able to join the existing ventilation team at Southampton because I’ve always been well supported, and it helped me to settle into the role more easily.”

Her role now involves caring for children who need invasive and non-invasive ventilation. She visits district general hospitals to deliver training, provides support and training to families, acts as an advocate for the child and liaises with the family once they are home.

“I can spend time showing the parents how to care for their child, and make them confident to provide that care,” she says. Giving control back to parents is one of her favourite parts of the job.

“Often the parents just want to know what’s going on,” she says. “When they are just waiting for information in a ward, it can get frustrating; I can remove

that stress by keeping them involved and sharing information. It’s great that they can have one point of contact and some continuity.”

This role, as with all others, is funded by WellChild for three years. During this initial period the value of the post is well evidenced and, when proven to be sustainable and an essential part of children’s and young people’s services, it is continued by the local NHS trust.

The WellChild Children’s Nurse network is supportive, with every nurse able to contact past or present nurses throughout the year to benchmark and access ideas about best practice. There is also a budget for training and study days.

Twice a year, the nurses get together to talk through a set theme or just share ideas. And they also see each other at the charity’s annual flagship event The WellChild Awards, where sick children, their carers, families and the health professionals who look after them are celebrated by a host of celebrities from film, comedy, sport and television, as well as the charity’s patron HRH Prince Harry.

“The children are incredible and the stories are heartbreaking, but it is amazing to see their faces light up when they get to meet their heroes,” Ms Hiscutt says.

“I love this job. I was concerned about the community work and how best to manage my time but this has become easier over time and my caseload makes me feel challenged daily. This is an exciting service to be involved in. I learn something new every day.”

Jenni Middleton

● See www.wellchild.org.uk

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