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Different roles in respiratory: Sandra Olive

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We speak to Sandra Olive who works in a large teaching hospital as a Respiratory Nurse Specialist

What is your role?

Respiratory Nurse Specialist, in a large teaching hospital

Special interests – Interstitial Lung Disease, Oxygen therapy (in acute and domiciliary setting), COPD/emphysema, Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Research

How did you decide to become a respiratory nurse?

As a student nurse, I was influenced by inspirational senior nurses on the respiratory ward, who combined enhanced clinical skills, an ability to respond to very varied demands and an absolute conviction of the value of good nursing care.

On qualifying, I worked in a variety of other areas, from community nursing to ITU – all of which I loved and which helped me to develop a breadth of knowledge and experience; I realised that I particularly enjoyed the opportunities to develop good therapeutic relationships with people living with long-term conditions and that respiratory diseases affect people accessing every area of healthcare.

In addition, it was clear that the speciality had many potential areas for further sub-specialist practice as my career progressed.

What has been the greatest challenge for you in the speciality?

Trying to develop services to deliver improvements in the quality of care provided for those living with chronic lung disease, with the constraints of a resource-limited healthcare system – sometimes it is difficult to demonstrate measurable benefits in services caring for people with chronic, progressive conditions where worsening symptom burden and recurrent acute episodes are often a feature of the illness.

What moment made you most proud?

There have been many over the years, ranging from winning a national award for innovation in respiratory care (after a nerve racking presentation on behalf of a team of colleagues!) to, just last week, opening a card from a patient and his wife expressing their thanks for the support of the respiratory nurses over the last four years.

I have also felt really proud to see student and junior nurses develop into confident, caring respiratory nurses, having had their interest in the speciality fired up by spending time with our respiratory nursing team.

What do you think the future has in store for respiratory nurses?

I think this is potentially an exciting time for respiratory nurses as we move towards a more integrated model of care for those with long terms conditions, with opportunities for teams to develop across traditional professional and organisational boundaries. Disease pathways increasingly recognise the value of the input of specialist nurses at an earlier stage in the disease process with roles in health promotion, disease prevention and early diagnosis, and in the clinical management and support of patients & carers throughout their journey with lung disease.

What tips would you give to a nurse interested in respiratory?

Make contact with your local respiratory nurses and spend some time shadowing them if you can. Try to get a feel for a range of sub-speciality areas, from acute respiratory wards delivering non-invasive ventilation, to disease-specific services, pulmonary rehabilitation and primary care clinics.  Read as much relevant information as you can and share in the lively respiratory community that exists on twitter!

Sandra Olive, Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital

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