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As a head of nursing it's crucial I continue working in practice settings

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Despite taking a new role and an inevitable increase in responsibility, Beck Sherrington is still dedicated to working on the front line. 

Rebecca Sherrington

I recently took on the role of ‘head of nursing and governance’ at Jersey General Hospital (a hospital with over 250 beds), and I am responsible for hospital nursing care.

Within my first month I made the commitment to work once a week on a ward or within a clinical area.

In recent months there has been various discussions on Twitter as to whether nurses who takes on a head of nursing role should remain clinical, like their medical counterparts do.

My inspiration for working in practice came several years ago from hearing Dame Eileen Sills, who was working at Guys and St Thomas Hospital, about her commitment to work clinically - and the expectation that her senior nursing team would be the same.

I’d thought at the time, if she could spare the time in a major London teaching hospital then surely everyone should try it.

“I’ve worked in areas outside my comfort zone, and the feedback from staff has been really positive”

Last year I was incredibly fortunate to spend a few days with Professor Janice Sigsworth at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and I noticed that everyone we met knew who she was including reception staff, porters, staff nurses.

Everyone said ‘hello’ to her. My chief nurse, Rose Naylor, also spends time in practice which I know is effective in capturing the hearts and minds of staff due (in part) to her connectivity and visibility to her staff.

I roster myself every Friday and have experienced a night shift on a surgical ward, a day shift on a paediatric ward, followed the site manager and worked on a rehab ward. These areas have been outside my comfort zone but the feedback from staff has been really positive.

I view myself as a regular person, who has worked hard to provide great care. I’ve got the job I have being working towards, but I’m still me and it’s great to be delivering care alongside staff who I want to get to know.

“Working a day a week has been worth it, despite the challenges of fitting it into a busy working week”

I am committed to listening to them and value hearing about what they think we should do. Having worked within one area, I took on the advice of the nurse about why one particular post was difficult to recruit into and we were then able to fill the role.

Working every week is a challenge and I was also unprepared to work in areas where I had no experience in. Providing clinical care in a busy hospital takes knowledge and technical skill and I know that I cannot provide care to the same level as the ward nurses who work with their patients all day, every day.

I can’t put patients and staff at risk so I do not take a case load, and frequently shadow healthcare assistants and help provide essential nursing care; which I love.

I am four months into my new role and I know that working a day a week has been worth it, despite the challenges of fitting it into a busy working week.

I will continue to do it without a doubt and I hope it will have benefits for our patients in the long term.

Becky Sherrington MSc, BSc(hons), RN is head of nursing and governance at Jersey General Hospital




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