A passion for nursing has shaped the last three decades of Susan Nightingale’s life
“Unless we are making progress in our nursing every year, every month, every week, take my word for it: we are going backwards.” Florence Nightingale’s quotation is a favourite of a nurse who shares the same surname. And taking the words on board was crucial for Susan Nightingale, who has just received a Queen’s Nursing Award.
“Receiving the award and being recognised as an experienced nurse with the values that uphold the very essence of nursing is a huge honour,” Ms Nightingale says.
Now a senior practice nurse prescriber at Birmingham’s Craig Croft Medical Centre, Ms Nightingale is entering her 31st year of nursing and is well aware of what the “essence of nursing” is.
“Nursing means being responsible, gaining the trust of a person receiving care in order for them to heal and return to their family and friends. It is also a privilege,” she says. “I learn something new every single day that enhances me as a caring and compassionate nurse. I thirst for knowledge as every nurse should: the world is evolving so fast, we need to make sure we keep up.”
Ms Nightingale began her nursing journey in 1984 when training at Birmingham. “My training was ‘old style’,” she says. “It was all hands on and everyone worked really hard. We were quite naïve to the world and had to learn very quickly, dealing with cardiac arrests, cancer, accidents and many more experiences. I really enjoyed it but it did mature us quickly.”
After qualifying, she worked in neurosurgical medicine, intensive care, burns and trauma and, finally, practice nursing.
“I learned more as a practice nurse than in my entire 12 years in hospital nursing,” she says. She stuck with the specialty for more than 15 years, finding the niche of diabetes nursing in the process.
“I learned more as a practice nurse than in my entire 12 years in hospital nursing”
“I specialise in diabetes as it covers such a wide array of illnesses: coronary heart disease, psychological issues, kidney disease. There are so many opportunities there. It’s very challenging but equally fulfilling,” she explains.
Charity work is also a high priority for Ms Nightingale. Last year, she travelled to Tsavo, Kenya, where she volunteered for a healthcare programme as part of a practice nurse forum group.
“It was a wonderful but emotional experience and has been instrumental in my involvement with other charity organisations,” she says. “I hope I can inspire others not only through my work as a practice nurse but also by using my nursing skills to help those less fortunate than we are in the UK.”
”As nurses, we need to utilise our skills wherever we’re needed”
Ms Nightingale is also an ambassador for Mary’s Meals, an organisation that helps to raise funds and awareness to feed children in Africa. “As nurses, we need to utilise our skills wherever we’re needed, especially in different or new environments,” she says.
Ms Nightingale highlights the importance of leadership in nursing, particularly among practice nurses. “We need more voices for practice nurses, as many people don’t understand the role or that it’s a viable career option. We deal with patients from birth until death, so it’s the best learning environment and it forces you to think outside the box.”
Her award from the Queen’s Nursing Institute has inspired her to be one of those voices. “Practice nursing is such an essential role: we need to be more vocal and stand together as a group. This award is so encouraging and reaffirming,” she explains. “It allows me to be even prouder as a nurse.”
”Practice nursing is such an essential role: we need to be more vocal and stand together as a group”
Ms Nightingale’s hopes and dreams for the future include pursuing a degree in diabetes and having the chance to mentor nurses in diabetes care. “This award has caused a lot of self-reflection over my 31 years in the profession, and I’ve been thinking about how to give back,” she says. “My goal is to be a role model for younger nurses and to further my own studies in diabetes, as I feel there is still so much to learn.
Becoming a Queen’s Nurse will help Ms Nightingale to keep moving nursing forward, as her namesake advocates. “It will allow me to communicate and work with nurses who are leaders within community care, to promote new ways of learning, training, teaching, as well as ways of passing on knowledge to others to maintain competence.”