Carol Stonham aims to emphasise kindness in every aspect of her nursing career
Respiratory care may be Carol Stonham’s official specialty but unofficially she seems to specialise in kindness and excellent patient care.
As senior nurse practitioner at Minchinhampton Surgery in Gloucestershire, she is constantly interacting with patients and ensuring they have the best possible care. To do this, Ms Stonham promotes the importance of compassion along with nursing skills.
“I feel really passionately that sometimes kindness is missing in nursing. There are people who have the skills but don’t know how to offer the right level of care and kindness towards patients.”
In addition to her role as senior nurse practitioner, Ms Stonham is also nurse lead for the Primary Care Respiratory Society UK, which helps practitioners to deliver patient-centred care. Here she helps to encourage and teach compassionate care.
Respiratory care is her “absolute passion” and she believes a huge difference can be made in patients’ lives if they get the right treatment.
A qualified nurse for almost 30 years and a practice nurse for 25, Ms Stonham has seen her specialty radically change.
“Practice nursing was very different when I first started. It was in its infancy. We were very much doing what doctors told us, whereas now I’m an autonomous practitioner.”
She’s also seen technology develop and learned how to integrate it in her role. Now she can FaceTime patients to see what they need, rather than them trying to explain over the phone.
“Practice nursing is a career path where you can actually develop and make a difference,”
But it’s not just patients she’s passionate about. She feels strongly that practice nursing gets an undeserved rap as a “boring old-lady retirement job” where newly qualified nurses can’t succeed.
“Practice nursing is a career path where you can actually develop and make a difference,” Ms Stonham says. “We should be attracting newly qualified nurses because most people spend more time interacting with primary care than in hospital.”
To get some of those newly qualified nurses to consider practice nursing as a career choice, she works with student nurses to show them what it’s all about.
“They’ve got the basic nursing skills but we need to build these up and develop their confidence by letting them work alongside one of the trained nurses. We can do that as long as they’ve got the clinical competencies,” Ms Stonham says.
“We also encourage them to go out to health clinics to investigate what is in the community.”
Her devotion to student nurses is reflected right back – one of her students called her an “absolute role model”. Her inspiring nature has also led her niece to ask for help with university applications, telling her: “I want to be a nurse just like you”.
“It’s not the big things, it’s the little things that matter.”
Ms Stonham was also recognised as a Queen’s Nurse seven years ago – a highlight of her career and one she found a bit surprising as “at the time, there had been really little recognition of nurses working in practice”. She later received an MBE, which she found “amazing”, as “they’re not usually [awarded to] nurses at practice level and with patient contact.”
But to Ms Stonham, hearing her one-on-one effect on people is more important than any accolade because, as she says, “it’s not the big things, it’s the little things” that matter.
But that’s not to say her nursing career is without frustrations. Practice nurses’ lack of recognition is a major pet peeve of hers.
“With how management levels work, practice nurses don’t really get a voice. There are nurses out there doing really good jobs that can’t get the education they need.”
”Kindness is the essence of nursing”
That annoyance with the system leads right back to her desire for high-quality patient care.
“With a lot of nurses, the essence of nursing has been diluted. Kindness is the essence of nursing. Some complain and moan about revalidation, but I think it might just fill that gap.”
Her focus on kindness and patient care is reflected in her advice to younger nurses, who want to be where she is: “You need to always ask questions and never accept things at face value. I’ve always been one to do things first, I’ve always been keen to get ahead of the game. Don’t be frightened to try new things – and always be kind.”