Three nurses working in unusual settings reveal what makes their jobs special
Jill Toole - Oilrig medic
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine working offshore,” says Jill Toole, a nurse turned offshore oilrig medic for Transocean.
“A friend’s father first encouraged me to consider nursing,” she says. “He had three daughters, all qualified nurses, and he saw similar qualities in me. I’ve never regretted taking his advice.
“I found out about offshore nursing via a friend who was a deep-sea diver,” she adds. “I’d worked in accident and emergency and intensive care and loved both. They were good preparation, especially as you never know what’s going to walk through the door.”
Ms Toole works two weeks on, three weeks off with a core 12-hour working day. “My day starts with a morning clinic, then I do essential safety and equipment checks, water sampling and reporting, hygiene inspections, first aid training and more,” she says.
“We need a broad skill and knowledge base to be able to manage anything from a pimple to cardiac arrest. We’re less visible than the helicopter admins, but there are more subtle rewards, like working with a crew member to make positive health choices and seeing the change that occurs.
“It’s not a career for everyone but it is for me.”
Victoria Harmer - TV , radio and film medical consultant
Daughter of two oncologists, it seemed only natural that Victoria Harmer would become a breast cancer nurse – trust lead breast care nurse at Imperial College Healthcare Trust in London, to be exact.
What she didn’t expect was to advise television and film scriptwriters to make sure breast cancer is accurately portrayed on screen.
“It is absolutely vital for breast cancer situations to be truthfully represented,” she says. “You never know what people have got under their jumpers; it demystifies the sickness for everyone, shows that it’s real. People need to be aware and know what to do if they find a lump.
“It’s not a documentary. Artistic licence must be had. But the actors and writers really want to get it right. They triangulate research from other sources to make sure everything is correct: costume bandages, scar appearances, treatment timelines.”
Many think Ms Harmer is lucky to do such unique work. “Some of it is luck,” she says, “but it’s mostly hard work: writing, weekend working, speaking at conferences, helping related charities, continually studying.”
Having worked on The Archers, EastEnders and Miss You Already she says: “I’m always energised. I just love what I do. It also reflects well on the trust I work for – a truly amazing team.”
Elizabeth Chitty - Hospital ship nurse
“Being in a non-traditional setting makes me a better nurse,” says Elizabeth Chitty, when she talks about her role with Mercy Ships. The organisation treats the poor aboard a hospital ship called the Africa Mercy, which docks in numerous ports in Central America, West and South Africa, and Asia-Pacific.
Ms Chitty has been a volunteer nurse in the Republic of Congo and Madagascar. In January she’ll return to Madagascar aboard the Africa Mercy for a year.
“The ship mainly performs surgeries – we’ve helped people with childbirth injuries, burns, rickets, facial tumours and dental care. Some surgeries may appear cosmetic but they really do save lives,” she says.
For her, the biggest difference between the ship and a hospital is the people: “On the ship everyone wants to do things in new ways because of all of the different backgrounds. I’m now a better nurse with a wider perspective.”