In celebration of the NHS's 70th Birthday, some of our amazing staff tell their stories.
Kat Sealey, Specialist Practitioner School Nurse, Epsom
“Wherever you work in the NHS, you touch people’s lives. We have been changing and improving lives in the NHS every day for the last 70 years and whatever the future holds for us, we will continue to do so.” Kat Sealey
In November 2017 Kat Sealey was named ‘Rising Star of the Year’ by Nursing Times magazine at its prestigious annual awards. Not bad for someone who started as a care assistant aged 25 and only got onto the nursing degree course through a wing and a prayer after studying at home for her A-Levels while working full time and with a young child. Kat went on to graduate with a first class Honours and hasn’t looked back since. Here’s her story:
After becoming a single parent at 22, Kat decided to go into care work simply because she wanted to ‘help’. However, she found that wanting to help wasn’t enough, and with experience behind her, now believes knowledge, integrity and courage are also essential for working in the NHS. “You need to be an ambassador for your patients, to lead them to better health; to be an advocate, speaking for those who don’t have a voice. And, especially as a public health nurse, you need to inspire people to look after their bodies and minds and strive for healthy lifestyles,” says Kat.
Kat’s first healthcare job was as a community care assistant, providing personal care for people at home. While working full-time in an acute psychiatric unit she starting studying for three A-Levels (via home study) and just managed to achieve enough UCAS points to be accepted onto a pre-registration nursing course.
Kat graduated with a 1st class honours in nursing from the University of Surrey in 2015. Her first job after qualifying was as a School Staff Nurse with NHS community provider, CSH Surrey. “My favourite part of being a school nurse is when I have the chance to teach in schools. The children often have surprising and fascinating questions about their bodies and I love that they are so interested in their health and wellbeing. When you can ‘catch them young’, you can change the health of a whole generation,” she says.
Kat completed her specialist practitioner training in September 2017 and is now a Specialist Practitioner School Nurse within the Surrey-wide Children and Family Health Surrey.
Kat continues to expand her skills and knowledge, and has written for peer-reviewed journals including the Student Nursing Times and Nursing Times online. She is currently studying for a Master’s degree.
In November 2017 Kat was named ‘Rising Star of the Year’ by Nursing Times magazine after drawing on her knowledge and experience of school nursing to write a book called Angry, ANGRY, Angus, which helps young children (4-7 years) to express their emotions and talk about their feelings to increase their chances of having good mental health as they grow up through their teenage years and into adulthood.
Since then Kat has gone on to develop lesson plans and activities as part of a teaching resource pack that Children and Family Health Surrey is currently piloting with 92 primary schools in Epsom, Leatherhead, Dorking and East Elmbridge. If successful, and early feedback from teachers has been very positive, the book and resource pack will be available to all primary schools across Surrey later this year.
Kat loves being a School Nurse and especially being involved with early interventions, making sure issues are picked up before children need to seek advice from their GP. “I can think of numerous occasions where the school nursing service has saved GPs’ time and appointment slots by seeing children and referring on to other services. This has a knock on effect for the whole community as it means it’s easier for others to get appointments with their doctors. I love my job as a school nurse because we are educating the next generation and giving children the knowledge and skills to be happier, healthier adults.”
Abigail Maybank, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian based at Epsom Hospital
“I enjoy working somewhere different in the community every day and being able to meet such a variety of different people.”
Having been in the NHS for three years, Abigail says she now wouldn’t want to work for any other healthcare service. For Abigail, working within the NHS means supporting ordinary people like herself, who rely on the NHS to be able to live the healthiest and most fulfilled lives that they can.
A typical day for a Specialist Paediatric Dietitian can be quite varied. For example, running a community clinic at a health centre, going out on home visits, visiting specialist schools, plus a lot of paperwork! Most of all, Abigail enjoys the opportunity to work with children and finding a nutritional plan that works for them, knowing what a difference it can make to their health and quality of life.
Vivien Allen, Clinical Specialist Paediatric Physiotherapist at the Jarvis Centre in Guildford
Vivien joined the NHS when she was 21, she is now 63. Her colleagues describe her as being highly committed to the NHS and its ideals. As a committed team player, Vivien ensures she provides a caring and supportive service to the children and families every day. She is proud to work within a service that has revolutionised healthcare and is free at the point of access.
Linda Buchanan, Health Visitor, Addlestone
“I belong to a wonderful team, there is much happiness and joy in health visiting which we celebrate. There are also a lot of sad stories and we support each other so we have the capacity to support families through these difficult times.”
Working as a Health Visitor in the community, Linda enjoys being out and about developing a good feel for different areas, which allows her to understand the health needs and life experiences of families living in South Runnymede.
Her role is varied and includes doing home visits for new born babies and their parents, providing one-to-one parenting advice, working with Children’s Services to support families where there is a safeguarding concern, conducting routine health and development reviews for babies and toddlers, and many other duties. Linda says most importantly, she is there for mothers who are struggling by offering non-judgemental support for them to be the best parents that they can be.
Linda leads parent and infant mental health baby massage groups at a Children’s Centre. Watching mums learn to trust themselves, allowing themselves to love their baby and seeing them make friends stands out among Linda’s best experiences as a Health Visitor.
Prior to training in public health nursing as a Health Visitor, Linda spent time as a hospital staff nurse and a specialist nurse, before taking a break in service for 18 years to have children. She then returned to practice and was a community staff nurse before becoming a Health Visitor.
Catherine May, Professional Lead for Paediatric Physiotherapy, based at Farnham Hospital
“NHS staff need to continue to be recognised and celebrated for the amazing work and services they offer.”
Catherine has worked for the NHS for 22 years, “giving all members of society the same opportunities to receive excellent care”, as she describes it. All NHS staff she has come across give everything to the care of their patients, frequently working over and above what is expected, always friendly with a smile, and passionate to deliver the best service possible.
The joy on a child or parent’s face when they tell Catherine what they can now do stands out for her: “I went to Legoland at the weekend and didn’t use my wheelchair all day”; “I took part in my race at sports day and I didn’t come last!”; “She can now roll over to reach her toys”; “Look how fast I can run with my walker!”; “Yesterday I rode my bike all the way to Granny’s house”; and many more triumphs.
Catherine believes that community services can often be overlooked and undervalued, yet are vital for continuing healthcare, lifelong management of long term conditions, health and wellbeing and preventing hospital admissions.
Hazel Croft, Community Nursery Nurse, Spelthorne School Nursing Team
“For some, work is a means to an end, but for others like myself, working within the NHS can be a joyous element of our lives.”
With 12 years’ NHS service, Hazel is proud and happy to be celebrating its 70th year. She views her work as a way to contribute to society and to feel like ‘we matter and have a purpose’.
There are many experiences that stand out for her, including helping families overcome night-time bedwetting, seeing children for health promotion sessions such as healthy eating and personal hygiene, getting thanked and being made to feel appreciated, and being able to identify, refer and to support young carers.
Hazel loves all aspects of her role and working with young people she feels she is able to make a difference in any parts of their lives that need support.
Kathryn Stevens, Clinical Systems Data Quality Manager
“Technology has improved so many processes and freed up clinical time so clinicians have more time to devote to patients. I love that the work I do improves the quality of the records held for patients, minimising risk to them.”
Kathryn started her journey with the NHS as a State Registered Chiropodist in July 1986, making this her 32nd year. After serving as a District Chiropodist, she was seconded to help services move onto an electronic clinical system, and worked her way up to manage the clinical systems team.
She describes working for the NHS as making it possible for teams to provide the best care for patients, whether as a clinician on the frontline or in the supporting services. “The work I do improves the quality of the patient records and minimises risk by ensuring there are not duplicate records on the system, that the information held on the patient is complete and up to date, caseloads are reviewed and that the activity teams undertake is reflected in reporting.”
Kathryn believes the NHS should provide the money to invest in more and better IT as she has experienced first-hand the benefits of technology and the time that could be saved and dedicated to patients. A standout memory was when a colleague in the IT team solved a problem that was affecting frontline staff and management, who had been struggling to get useful and accurate reports. They produced a suite of reports that gave me an overview of data quality across services, and could be drilled down to patient level. She says: “The cherry on the cake came when he created an automated email notification so clinicians could have details of their outstanding appointments. I was so very excited that my dream had been achieved.”