After 15 years in the NHS, Rachel made the move to The Hospital Group in January 2017. It’s a move she has never regretted.
She explains, “My background is in paediatric nursing, although I also worked in A&E and bed and site management for children. As time went on, though, I knew that I needed a change of direction from looking after acutely unwell patients in a ward setting. I wanted something which would help me to promote good health to patients, and so I applied for the position of clinic nurse at The Hospital Group’s Fulham clinic in London. I was delighted to get the job and take the next step on the career ladder.”
Rachel had found her perfect job. “Being a clinic nurse is a combination of all the best bits of nursing, in my opinion! I’m able to work independently, as well as part of a team, and while I have freedom to make my own decisions, there’s always support available when I need it, too. It’s very satisfying to know that what I do day to day directly contributes to the success of my clinic.”
A typical day in the clinic in Fulham would see Rachel conduct cosmetic surgery patient pre-operative assessments and post-operative checks. She’d organise diary appointments and use her best judgement to set the pace of her day. “If a patient needed me to be flexible, I could be, because I wasn’t responding to the beep of a machine in a hospital setting any more. And patients do appreciate the personal, one-to-one care that we give them.”
The Senior Nurse element of her role sees Rachel provide day-to-day clinical and professional support to the clinic nurses who work in The Hospital Group’s 10 clinics in the south of England, from Nottingham to Southampton. The support required varies, from providing clinical advice relating to individual patients to conducting nurse appraisals and clinical supervision sessions and providing nursing cover for sickness or annual leave. Rachel works closely with the company’s National Lead Clinic Nurse and her colleague who is Senior Cosmetic Nurse for the North, as well as with the company’s Weight Loss Services to help develop and implement national policy appropriately.
There is one patient that Rachel will never forget. She remembers, “This lady wanted to have rhinoplasty – a nose job – because she had always hated her nose. However, she was very, very scared of needles. When we eventually did manage to take a blood test, the results weren’t what were needed to be able to go ahead. I built up a relationship with this patient, and with my support she plucked up the courage to attend the clinic for a second blood test. Unfortunately, the results were similar to the original ones.
“At this point, I spoke with her about making positive changes to her diet which could help, and I was delighted when her third test gave the results we needed to be able to proceed with surgery. I’ll never forget how happy she was when her cast came off and she saw her new nose. Having surgery completely changed her life.”
As the Care Quality Commission Registered Manager of Fulham, it’s Rachel’s responsibility to ensure that the clinic provides effective care, treatment and support to its patients and meets all of their needs. “Usually I’ll start my day with checks across the clinic to ensure that it’s clean and safe, and ready to receive patients. It’s always buzzing and busy,” she says. “Things have changed recently, though, because of the coronavirus pandemic. For the time being, the clinic is closed, and I am based at home.”
Although Rachel has experienced a change of pace whilst working from home in the past weeks, her patients are still firmly at the heart of what she does. “The rhythm of working life is pretty different just now,” she says. “I’m still working full time, but whereas in the past I’d have had a steady flow of patients in clinic, now I might be answering patient queries late at night or early in the morning to suit their lifestyle in lockdown, with the middle of the day quieter.
“I’ve often thought that elements of my role could be carried out from home, and now I can see that’s true,” she adds. “I really miss seeing my patients in person, but it’s great that I’m still able to provide the support they need in other ways. By speaking to them on the phone or via text or email we can still gather the information we need to conduct safe assessments and adequate follow-up for them.”
While Government COVID-19 restrictions are in place, Rachel is part of a team of on-call nurses which manages patients across the UK and Ireland. One of the company’s surgeons is on-call too, meaning that patients enjoy support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. “We’ve got used to managing patients remotely using our knowledge and expertise to give appropriate care and advice over telephone,” she says. “The majority of what we do now is carried out by phone or laptop, as we reassess patients and answer their queries this way. We can look at emailed photos, for example, rather than examining a patient, to give them advice. We’ve really had to consider alternatives to a lot of what we do day to day to continue providing high standards of care.”
Rachel admits that she has been surprised by her patients’ resilience during the COVID-19 crisis. She smiles, “They’ve been so positive, despite having to do more for themselves. Because we’re not able to see them face to face, we’re posting out dressings to them and guiding them on how to change these themselves, for example. They realise this is an unprecedented situation and we’re all in it together, so they’re simply getting on with it. It’s been humbling to see how grateful they are for the level of support and frequent contact we’re providing.”
Rachel misses the camaraderie of working with the rest of her team at Fulham and can’t wait to start working again in the clinic once restrictions are lifted enough to allow this. “The best part of my role is managing the entire patient journey and seeing how they change throughout the process. But I do think that COVID-19 has shown that we can offer a variety of options to suit our patients. Many have busy lives, and some may have to travel a long distance to reach a clinic. Being able to help these people remotely through increased telephone, email and video communication will benefit them, so there are definitely some positives to take from the changes we’ve had to make due to the coronavirus situation.
“No matter where I am based – at home or in the clinic – the best part of my role is still seeing and hearing how happy our patients are after their treatment,” smiles Rachel. “The feedback we’ve had in the past few weeks has been amazing, so although we may not be saving lives, we are helping to improve our patients’ quality of life beyond recognition.”