After visiting her mum in hospital as a very young child, Debbie knew immediately that she wanted to become a nurse. She fulfilled her dream and it has been a long and varied career to date – one that began in treating multiple sclerosis patients, before moving on to a community role as part of a specialist palliative care team, where she has been based for the past four years.
During the Covid-19 crisis, Debbie volunteered to change roles, setting up and managing a palliative care service at the Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northampton. The new facility was formerly a closed day centre but is now designed to offer increased bed capacity for Covid-19 palliative patients who are being discharged from hospital.
The unit was ready within three weeks. Staffed by a new team of people, including a cohort of staff redeployed from other areas, Debbie led training and development alongside a number of colleagues, including a palliative care practice development team, and a hospice sister, to name a few.
Debbie is a campaigner for change and actively seeks to engage others in the subject of patients using CBD oil. Not only does she sit on the RCN’s Neuroscience Forum as chair, she has spoken at regional Queen’s Nursing Institute meetings as well as nationally, and has also contributed to open discussions with police and other agencies about the use of marijuana and pain management. She is widely recognised as a real advocate for patients and families and is considered to be an expert in her field.
Debbie says: “I ask for two things of people that work with me: the first is that you look after yourself and your colleagues, the second is that you give the patients the best possible care, so we can all go home knowing that we’ve done our best.”
What motivates you every day?
Debbie says: “Most of the time it’s the little things every day that make a difference for me. It’s the reason I come to work. It’s not the thank yous or anything else – it’s just being able to make a difference.”
What would you say to anyone considering nursing as a career?
Debbie says: “Nursing isn’t easy. It offers challenges, but it’s what you do with those challenges that makes you the better nurse. It affords you a career where you can change or you can move and there is a wealth of jobs to try which you don’t get in other professions.”
What can the palliative care approach offer the wider profession?
Specialist palliative care can enhance the care in all aspects of nursing. Working with our wider community teams is crucial to providing excellent care at the end of life. Our holistic approach to care is paramount to success.
How can nurses strengthen their leadership and impact?
For me leadership is about sharing, being approachable and professional in all areas of work. Sharing our knowledge and skills with our colleagues is a crucial part of a specialist role. Writing and reviewing articles and/or books as well as presenting your work/successes creates a strong impact. Consulting on national policy and practice again impacts on another level.