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Taking a patient perspective

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Annie Ollivierre-Smith was named nurse of the year after designing care around patients’ needs and wishes

Annie Ollivierre-Smith - who won Nurse of the Year in the Nursing Times Awards 2013 -only came into nursing on her mother’s recommendation. Nearly 40 years on, the cath lab manager and lead cardiac nurse at BMI The London Independent Hospital is delighted with the decision.

“My mum was ill with breast cancer when I was 16, and I took care of her,” says Ms Olivierre-Smith. “She was so taken aback with how attentive I was - and I actually surprised myself at how much I enjoyed looking after all her daily needs - that she recommended nursing.”

She started her career in cardiac nursing in the NHS 32 years ago, including a role as cardiac nurse at the London Chest Hospital. She moved to the private sector in 1987, working at BMI The London Independent Hospital, first as sister and then promoted to her current role in 2003.

Throughout her career, she has always made the patient the focus.

“I don’t think of the NHS and the private sector as different,” she says. “We are all here to care for the patient. Just as you would lend a neighbour a cup of sugar, I will often lend local NHS trusts some kit if their order hasn’t come in.”

It is this refreshing ability to sweep away barriers and put the patient first that saw Ms Ollivierre-Smith impress the judges at the Nursing Times Awards.

Despite being credited with setting up a unit that has performed over 27,000 procedures and brought in more than £36m revenue, it is patient care that motivates her.

“We must look at things from the patients’ perspective,” she says. “I don’t like the idea that we do the same old, same old that we’ve done for years. We need to know how what we do will benefit patients.”

So she has dedicated her career to looking at the whole patient journey from the patients’ viewpoint.

“I think: what would I want to see when I go into hospital, what would I want to know and how would I be greeted and treated?” she says.

As a result of taking this empathetic perspective, she dramatically changed the patient pathways for cardiac patients in the hospital. She brought the whole pathway into one department. From the initial consultation, through booking, pre-assessment, procedure and inpatient care to discharge, her team were able to take full ownership and ensure continuity of care at every stage of their patients’ journey.

“I just thought if I came to hospital, I would want to see the people who were looking after me before the operation - to ask questions and be reassured,” she says.

Equally important to the management of the new department was after care and she delivered a full service programme, following up patients and being on call when and if a patient needed them once discharged.

“Only by asking them whether the treatment we have given them has made a difference and if they are getting on OK and have gone back to work, can we really measure if our care has been successful,” she says.

She has also set up a walk-in chest pain clinic to provide peace of mind to patients. “Often it’s just to take their ECG and reassure them, but soothing their fears and anxieties is an important part of treatment,” says Ms Ollivierre-Smith.

Her win at the Nursing Times Awards she says is for all the nurses at the London Independent. “I was proud to see all those big university teaching hospitals who have done so many amazing things, and to be the only one shortlisted from the private sector,” she says. “But then to win tells all the nurses here that we are doing a good job.

She says what attracted her to cardiac nursing still delights her today - the fast pace that delivers results for patients.

“All I want to continue to do - all I ever wanted - is to do a good job and make patients’ lives easier and better. That’s still my ambition at the end of my career as much as it was at the beginning.”

Jenni Middleton

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