“It’s so rewarding to support nurses to become more confident in what they do.”
Jenny Erisman is a clinical practice educator in the Trust’s division of surgery, cancer and cardiovascular. She trains and assesses nurses on our surgical wards, working with them on a one-to-one basis to help them provide the best care they can. She also plays a role in maintaining standards of care and rolling out new initiatives across the whole Trust. Here she talks about how she progressed from a staff nurse to a clinical practice educator and why she loves her job.
Turning passion into progression
In 2011 I started my career as a band five nurse on Charles Pannett ward, a surgical ward at St Mary’s Hospital. I gained a lot of experience with seriously unwell patients on the ward’s high dependency unit (HDU) which was a fascinating place to work. I’ve always loved working in acute medicine; all my placements in my final year at West London University were in A&E, medical HDU and intensive care.
I’m passionate about learning and after I qualified it was really important to me that I continued studying. On Charles Pannett ward I completed the nursing preceptorship, which supports newly qualified nurses to make the transition into their first role, and an introductory course in critical care. When I progressed to a band six nurse role I took some of the more junior nurses under my wing and supported them where I could. My manager at the time saw this and suggested I become the link educator for the ward. A link educator is someone who, alongside looking after their own patients, looks after all the new starters and holds mini training sessions and creates workbooks and posters for them.
I enjoyed teaching and mentoring others so much, I decided I wanted to work in nurse education full time. My experience of mentoring junior nurses and working with patients on the high dependency unit made me a good fit for a clinical practice educator role in surgery. Luckily a job came up and I applied successfully.
Supporting nurses to learn and grow
As clinical practice educator, I’m no longer allocated patients to look after on the wards, instead I work alongside the nurses, coaching them and teaching them good practice and new skills. I carry out a supportive role on several surgical wards to meet the educational needs of the nursing staff who work there. I make sure they are up to date in all the training they are required to do and provide training where needed, either myself or by coordinating study days. This includes clinical competencies – I’ll train and assess staff on anything from administering medications intravenously to skin care and preventing pressure ulcers.
"I’m passionate about learning and after I qualified it was really important to me that I continued studying"
I work very closely with the ward managers and matrons to identify any specific educational needs that a nurse may have and discuss how to help the nurse meet these. A big part of my role on the ward is getting to know the nurses themselves. Everybody has different learning needs and teaching methods that work for them, so the better I know the staff as individuals, the more I can adapt the way I teach to suit them.
Making an impact across the Trust
Myself and the other members of the surgical education team also play a part in maintaining standards of care at the Trust. We get involved in writing a lot of policies and guidelines – some may be specific to surgical nursing, but most of them will be for all nurses to follow whatever their specialty.
We also have a role in large-scale projects at the Trust, making sure new initiatives are implemented on the wards. For example, we are involved in the work of the sepsis big room, introducing a multi-faceted approach to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of sepsis at our hospitals. We continue to support the roll out of our electronic patient record system, Cerner, which started three years ago. We love doing the big roll outs because it’s about going around the wards and getting people as excited about improvements as we are!
Helping nurses gain knowledge and confidence
Our team has designed a programme called RAPID, which is a three-day training course followed by practical support on the ward. It’s about building assertiveness, leadership and confidence in nurses who manage deteriorating patients. If a patient becomes very unwell on the ward, we want to make sure nurses feel really confident that they know what to do to keep that patient safe so they can take a leadership role in the patient’s care. We focus on assessment of patients; while doctors make decisions about care plans, we empower nurses to assess the patient in detail themselves and continue to re-assess patients to check if an intervention has worked. We also teach the medical theory behind clinical tasks as we find that the more you know about your job, the more you’ll enjoy it and the more confident you’ll feel.
My role requires patience, flexibility, leadership and passion. I find it so rewarding to support nurses to become more confident and expert in what they do, because nursing is an amazing profession. I’m proud to support nurses to hone their skills, build their careers and provide great care to our patients.
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