Our final story which celebrates the nurses of EMAS comes from Nichola Bramhall, Director of Quality Improvement and Patient Safety. Nichola joined the NHS in 1988, joined EMAS as Deputy Director of Nursing and Quality from Jan 2012 to September 2014 and re-joined in July 2019.
Here is her story:
“I joined the NHS as a student nurse in January 1988 to do my registered general nurse training at Guy’s Hospital in London. Initially my mind was set on being an optician and I had a place at University to start my degree course the September after leaving college.
“To earn some money between leaving college and starting my course, I took a job as a Healthcare Assistant in a local nursing home in my home town of Brighton and I absolutely loved it, so much so that I completely rethought my career.
“I really enjoyed speaking to the residents about their lives which for many was living through two world wars and dealing with the aftermath. I was always so humbled by their quiet dignity, often their humour and gratitude for the care they received and despite it being physically and emotionally hard work it was so rewarding. So, I decided to apply to do my nurse training and have never looked back.
“My career has been varied and I have over the last 32 years held a variety of roles such as clinical, educational and managerial and worked in a number of different settings including acute hospitals, the community, clinical commissioning and of course the ambulance service.
“My career started in London where I worked at a number of different hospitals before moving to the East Midlands in 2000. I have been a ward sister, a vascular clinical nurse specialist, a clinical educator, a commissioner and now a director. I am also a Registered Nurse Teacher having qualified with a BA (Hons) in Nursing Education in 1995.
“That is what is so great about nursing, our knowledge, skills and experience are varied and transferable which makes us very marketable, with the opportunities being endless. The main thing is that wherever we work and in whatever capacity, we have the ability to really make a difference to people’s lives, which I for one, find an absolute privilege.
“I can’t think of any advice that I wish I’d been given but I can think of some bits of advice that I was given that have served me very well and that I continue to live and practice by. This includes ‘treat people how you would wish yourself or a loved one to be treated’, ‘if you don’t write it down – it didn’t happen!’, ‘never compromise your integrity’ and ‘never underestimate your value and impact’. This is all advice I would share with someone embarking on a career in nursing plus remember to look after yourself and your colleagues.
“During my career, there are several things which have changed. Firstly, the nature of patients has changed significantly, in a large part due to the success of the NHS and the fact that people are now living longer.
“I’ve also seen a welcome change in the relationship between patients and care givers with patients more informed than they have ever been and more involved in decisions about them. There’s still a way to go to ensure we have a truly open, transparent approach where we are constantly learning and improving but things have come a long way.
“I guess one of the biggest changes has been to the role of the nurse with extended scope of practice and development of specialist and consultant roles, meaning that there are a much wider range of career opportunities available and that management is no longer the only option for progression.
“Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic I would have to say that I, like everyone in the NHS, am dealing with my greatest challenge now. I am immensely impressed by the way that everyone has responded to the challenge and have never been prouder to be part of the NHS and ambulance service family.
“I’m not sure that I could narrow down my highlight of my career to one thing. In general, it has been the things I’ve been able to do that make a big difference to patients or staff.
“One example that sticks in my mind is the introduction of a hairdressing and therapy service for inpatients at Chesterfield Hospital. This was funded by charitable funds and started as a one day a week service for long stay patients including those at the end of life.
“It was great to be able to provide a personal service for patients that really enhanced their patient experience. The service was so popular that as a result of ongoing donations, the service was expanded to several days a week. Another highlight has been getting to work with some truly inspiring people. I continue to learn from those around me every day and hope that in turn I have been able to support others in their continued development.”