Community nurses making a difference in Northamptonshire

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Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust provides a range of community and mental health services across the county.

Community Nurses care for people across Northamptonshire. Shanice Fletcher works as a
Community Nursing Sister for NHFT in the Corby and Kettering team. She started her nursing training at the University of Northampton in 2016 when she was 23, and graduated in 2019.

She became a community nurse at NHFT straight afterwards and was promoted to a Band 6 Sister in June 2020.

Shanice had always wanted to be a nurse, but when her mum and Grandad were diagnosed with cancer, she was determined to pursue her career dream. She helped care for her mum and attended all her hospital appointments, so she got to see first-hand what nursing was like.

However, it wasn’t until she was at university that she learnt about the role of community nursing.

During her training she did some placements in the community which led her to choosing the community pathway in her third year at university.

Shanice said: “I didn’t really know anything about community nursing but once I had been on my placements, I realised it was the area for me. Although I also did placements in acute hospital settings, I preferred the community nursing environment.”

One of the main attractions of community nursing for Shanice is the fact it is an autonomous role with a lot of responsibility, but working as part of a supportive team.

She enjoys the variety of the job too and building relationships with patients Shanice explains, “In hospital you see patients come and go and there is very little time to develop a relationship with them. Out in the community it is very different as we are seeing people in their home environments, often over long periods of time
and we get to know them and their families. I have people still on my case list that I had when I first started.”

In any typical day, Shanice could see a number of patients who have different conditions and require varying nursing interventions. She prioritises those with urgent care needs, such as diabetes and palliative care patients first and works through the list. Her role involves doing all sorts of things from taking bloods and wound management to catheter care, palliative care and syringe drivers.

She said: “In this area we see many younger palliative care patients and they can range in age anything from 20 upwards and can have very complex care needs. As well as dealing with the clinical side of their condition and ensuring they have the right treatment, I have to deal with the psychological side of their care. For younger people this can mean helping them and their families come to terms with their diagnosis.”

During the pandemic this has been particularly hard as the community nursing service did not stop seeing people face to face. At the beginning their case load did decrease slightly as people didn’t want them going into their homes, but in May and June 2020 referrals into the service increased significantly and have continued to do so.

She said: “With the Covid restrictions and changes in working practices across many services it did mean an increase in demand and we were seeing more people than normal. We were often the only person patients were seeing so we had an important role to play and often had to help older people with video calls using our smart phones. This could sometimes be difficult if we had to stay longer or couldn’t make the time. We were stretched at times but the team coped phenomenally well.”

Shanice is currently doing her district nursing qualification which she started in January 2021 and which takes a year. Her career aspiration after this is to do her non-medical prescribing course, with the hope of eventually becoming a Band seven District nurse.

Shanice said: “Community nursing is immensely rewarding, and I’d recommend it to any nurse who wants to work in an environment which is fast paced and where you can really develop your skills in lots of areas. You can make a big difference to a patient’s life, and we get to build up such a good rapport with patients and their families.

“For younger nurses especially who have just graduated, you can build up your confidence quickly because of the degree of autonomy you get and I think this also gives you the drive to progress. We are happy to push ourselves to learn and it’s great that the Trust is fully behind us and encourages us to continue studying so we can progress our careers.”

Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has a wide-range of opportunities for newly and qualified nurses, offering flexible working and financial incentives. To meet the team face to face and find out why Community Nursing might be right for you, consider attending one of the Outstanding Trust’s open days. Visit www.nhft.nhs.uk/jobs for more information.