Victoria Stevans sits down with Laura Maitra, a frailty nurse and recent winner of a Clinician of the Year Award, to get her take on community nursing and the importance of in-home care
“It’s really cliché, but I really have always wanted to be a nurse. I think it was the uniform,” jokes Laura Maitra, a frailty nurse with CBC (Community Based Care) Health.
“There are pictures of me at six-years old dressed up like a nurse, pretending to bandage my grandmother’s hand,” she says, ruminating further on her motivations for pursing nursing.
Ms Maitra is no longer playing dress-up. She is making a serious impact on the lives of her patients and, in turn, being recognised for her many hours of kind, conscientious work. By winning the Clinician of the Year award at the National Association of Primary Care Awards in October 2016, Ms Maitra is promoting the nursing profession and showing everyone just what a nurse can accomplish. Uniform or no uniform.
“I have always wanted to work with the elderly”
As a result of her passion for nursing, which she seems to have been born with, Ms Maitra started her training earlier than most. In other words – as soon as possible.
“I went to school in Scotland, and there is a programme where you can go to nursing school at 17, so I was able to start right away,” she says. Her specialty has also invariably felt like a given. “I have always wanted to work with the elderly. My first placement was in a care home,” she says.
Ms Maitra relishes her work with elderly people in part because of the unique community that this age group fosters. “There is very different dialogue with elderly patients,” she explains. “These are people in their own right that have been lawyers and doctors. The goal is to allow them the independence to be the person that they used to be.” In return, Ms Maitra has also garnered important life skills through working with elderly people. “This line of work gives you good leadership skills. Sometimes you have to really fight for the things your patients need,” she notes.
“Some people in my ward had been working there longer than I had been alive, so I had to lead by example”
Her leaderships skills proved helpful when she became a ward manager in Northumbria at just 23-years old, making her one of the youngest in the country. “Some people in my ward had been working there longer than I had been alive, so I had to lead by example. If you ‘do’ instead of ‘delegate’, you get respect. You have to lead with passion,” she notes.
When she was ready for her next challenge, Ms Maitra took a position as a community frailty nurse with CBC Health, where she embraced the opportunity to advocate for her patients. “There is a stigma [with community nursing], people don’t see it as high brow as hospital nursing,” she notes. “But, when you step into their home you can connect with patients more personally. You can see them in a bigger picture.”
Ms Maitra’s interest in elderly care and community nursing has expanded, and it shows in her work. When asked about her greatest achievements, Ms Maitra told me a story of one of her case load successes.
“I felt really privileged, and a little embarrassed because I just felt like I was doing my job”
“I had an elderly couple on my case load that had been married 75 years. The gentleman was physically weak, but mentally strong. His wife had dementia but was physically very strong. They both wanted to stay at home together,” Ms Maitra explains. “When I took over their care, I coordinated everything, making sure all of the loose ends of their care were connected so they could stay together.
“That is one of my best success stories. It really made a difference for them.”
The dedication Ms Maitra lends to her position as a frailty nurse led to her nomination and win of the 2016 Clinician of the Year award. Ms Maitra notes, “I felt really privileged, and a little embarrassed because I just felt like I was doing my job.” The only other clinicians nominated were doctors, with Ms Maitra the only nurse shortlisted for this specific award.
“[My win] showed that nursing has no ceilings,” she comments on her success. “Nurses are leading the way now, and to win this award nationally as a nurse felt really wonderful.”