Blue Sky Thinking

Not so long ago one of my wonderful managers introduced me to the world of ‘blue-sky thinking’, it’s a form of brainstorming with nothing to ground you, no constraints or limits, ideas that form more ideas, and so on. So this month’s Nurse Blogger task is a perfect time for me to try out some beautiful blue skies!

Obviously, as a Research Nurse, my blue skies would turn to research, I would want to see every person’s contact with healthcare have the option to take part in research regardless of where they are or what they need it for, there would be a research option regardless.

Many years ago I attended a talk from a lung cancer specialist who strived to provide research for every part of the patient’s pathway. I was in awe and thought what a fantastic idea, for everything that we do we could carry out research to see if we were doing the best we could at that time, or was there something we could improve upon. Every part of a patient’s healthcare journey would have a research arm affiliated with it.

As research developed into routine care there would be no barriers to research, research would be business as usual and every nurse and healthcare worker would be research experts, the care team would see the gaps in practice and develop their own research projects.

Without the constraints of time, resources, or money a person would be asked to join a research project or opt for usual care. This could be in the form of treatments, how information is delivered, absolutely everything would be research-based. Just think how amazing this would be in the long run.  We could cease doing the things that don’t work and improve and build upon the things that do.

This in turn would help the NHS and its future making it much more effective and efficient. Wow, could this actually be the future? COVID-19 has changed the way we conduct research a lot in recent months and is seen as crucial and fundamental during this pandemic, I hope that this continues well into the future. Hmmm, as I type I’m actually starting to believe in my BIG BLUE SKY THINKING ideas!

Nursing, a career for life; past, present, and future

My Past:

When my Nan was younger in the 1940’s she wanted to be a nurse but did not pass the anatomy exam.  “I just could not remember the names of all those bones” she once told me. I wish so very much that I had discussed this more in detail with her.

When my other Nan was dying and I was 10 years old, I placed a drink on her bedside table and she said I would make a good nurse. ‘I don’t want to be a nurse I wanted to be a teacher’ was my first thought.

In the end, I became a bank clerk.

My younger sister who I seemed to follow into jobs, worked in a shop, she got me a job in the same shop. She went to work in a bank, so did I. She started her nursing career, and said I would enjoy being a nurse “come and join me” so I did!

I gave it a go. I became a student nurse just as my sister qualified as a registered nurse. Again my sister became a renal dialysis nurse, guess what? I became a renal dialysis nurse.

Then our paths changed I went onto Research nursing at a trust, she went into Warfarin nursing.

My Present:

In 2015 I joined the NIHR CRN West Midlands where my research journey continued with a secondment managing a large team of Paediatric Nurses. Although learning the skills to become a good manager and leader is challenging it is very rewarding.  I’ve learned a hell of a lot in the last 5 years and still very much learning. The post became substantive and I’m now managing a team of ten all with various skills and expertise. I have a fantastic team who are truly inspirational.

During COVID -19 I have supported the induction of several new members of staff. I have enjoyed being part of someone’s journey into research from knowing very little about research to becoming an independent research nurse, sometimes teaching me a thing or two.

My professional new year’s resolution was to ensure that the role of a research nurse was raised. I feel COVID-19 has very nicely done this for me which leads me neatly into my future.

My future:

Being able to offer research to every patient in every care setting as part of routine care is a goal I’ve wanted to be part of for a long time. Research is everybody’s future, COVID-19 has shown us this. I have really enjoyed the educational side of my work and would love to see where this would develop in the future.

I still have my long term goal that one day I would love to experience the other side of research and conduct my own research. Maybe I need to start thinking about making this reality.

Nursing opens up so many opportunities, something I’m extremely grateful for. I often sit back and think what would be different if my Nan had remembered 206 little words??????


I can pinpoint the exact moment when my whole life changed and set me off on a career path I never knew existed, this is my story of my best day in nursing.

I was with a Student Nurse talking about my role within the Renal Dialysis Unit when a nurse came onto the unit with an envelope. She delivered it to the lady I was caring for, had a chat, and turned to walk away. Now I had seen this nurse a few times on the unit and a very similar pattern was occurring – delivery, chat, walk away. Intrigued by what she was delivering, I ran over and said “are you the Diabetes Nurse?”

She looked apologetic and said, “No, I’m a Research Nurse”.

One of my lecturers at University said they were a Nurse Researcher previously but I had never heard of a Research Nurse until that day.

I asked the Research Nurse what she did, she explained and said I could spend some time with her.

Excitedly I walked back to the shocked Student Nurse who was watching all of this unfold and said to her that’s my dream job.

A few weeks later on my day off I spent the whole day with that Research Nurse and what an experience it was, I was learning so much about new dialysis techniques, other renal conditions, she was collecting data on things I just had taken for granted and had never really given much thought to before. This was the reason for her delivery to that lady, a questionnaire. It was all making sense now!

With this Research Nurses support, I became a Research Champion for the unit and a few months later became a Research Nurse.

I will share this quote again from a previous post, something that I think is so important:

“Now close your eyes and think of the worst nurse you have met, how they made you feel, what they did, how they acted…. Now think of the best nurse, what they did, how they worked, how they made you feel…. When I ask future Student Nurses this question I never want you to be pictured in their mind as the worst nurse, strive to be somebody’s best’.

That Research Nurse who spent the time with me and developed my skills to firstly become a Research Champion and then a Research Nurse changed my life forever, I’m still a Research Nurse ten years on.

So you never know who is watching you as you carry out your daily tasks. You just maybe inspiring someone to change their life too.

Nursing Retention

When retention came up as the theme for April’s Nurse blogger’s blog, my heart sank, I was unsure what I could add to this topic other than in my opinion nursing is brilliant. Plus it is definitely an ‘elephant in the room’ topic.

Then just by chance at the weekend as I was sorting out some old paperwork, I spotted some notes from when I attended a couple of lectures regarding nursing retention a little while ago, unfortunately, I didn’t write the names of the lectures down and I can not remember the names of the lecturers. That’s taught me a lesson for the future.

However, after reading from my notes I feel a little more positive about nursing retention, I must have felt this at the time but had forgotten. I’ve written down that a small percentage of nurses leave the profession because of stress and dissatisfaction with the job. A larger percentage leave the role due to positive reasons. Something I hadn’t really considered before.

Nurses have choices, employers are dipping into the same pool of talent to recruit to their jobs and with an obvious pull to band 6 roles, nurses migrate elsewhere. Maybe this should be our focus? How do we recruit more student nurses to this wonderful talent pool?

Another lecturer looked at European nurses working in England, interviewing them in the first year after settling into their nursing role. The finding was that even though a lot of the nurses enjoyed their working environment it was the social environment that pulled them back home.

Looking back on my own experience when nurses leave it’s always for a new challenge, retirement, or higher band. Only a couple of my nursing colleagues throughout my career leave nursing altogether before retirement. To be honest I can only think of one. Also, a nursing friend who went to work abroad came home as they missed their family and friends too much but brought so much new knowledge and information back with them.

So maybe the information from the lectures from a little while ago is still current today?




A lot of my fellow nurse bloggers have written wonderful blogs about this subject and have clear definitions of how they can empower nurses today. Therefore, I feel my blog wouldn’t be half as profound as these brilliant bloggers. That’s why it has taken me until today, the very last day of the month and a very special day 29th February to write this.

For me, the only way I can write this blog is to think about who empowers me?

Straight away, my first thoughts go to my colleagues and nursing friends. I have wonderful people around me (you know who you are, I hope I thank you regularly enough) who listen and empower me every day. Without these brilliant nurses, I do not think I would be doing the work I’m doing now. I have mentors, who don’t even realise they are empowering me, nurses, that encourage me to try new ways of thinking and working. For me empowerment means believing in someone, sharing ideas and being supportive. I’m so lucky to have this close network around me.

Speaking of luck, I’m very lucky that I work in an organisation that actively empowers you to make changes. Last year I became a Quality Improvement Champion and what a year it’s been (a blog for another day) but just being in a culture of wanting staff to empower themselves is a fantastic start.

So now I  feel I’ve made use of my extra day with a short and sweet blog on how we can empower nurses today? Something as short and sweet as sharing your ideas, being supportive and believing in our fellow nurse may be a start to empowerment.


How will I shape the year of the nurse?

As I’m finishing off the last of the mince pies and watching rubbish TV, with a smile I’m reflecting on my last twelve months. Not so long ago I was tucking into Easter chocolates wandering what the year would bring…. Well what a year it’s been.

 Firstly I’ve realised that change happens whether you want it to happen or not. Happily looking at our team Christmas photo brought home to me that there are a few people missing this year. Colleagues who have moved on to other nursing posts. Luckily I’m still in touch with most of theses great nurses which I feel is a great privilege. Our research collaborations continues within the wider healthcare community. But nothing stays still, new nurses are now in post and they are bringing fantastic new skills, knowledge, sharing new perspectives, the next research generation continues.

Change is exactly how I would sum up my year. Becoming a Quality Improvement (QI) champion in my organisation, has been my biggest achievement. QI and research go hand in hand. Research is trying to improve care, exactly the same for QI. Change is important, enabling others to make a change to improve is just as important. Change is how we move forward in nursing, research and QI.

So what can I change to shape the year of the nurse? My New Years Research Resolution is to shout out about the role of the Research Nurse and how important this role is. What better time to shout out loud about what a great job Research Nursing is than during the year of the nurse 2020!

Randomised Coffee Trial

This week I completed my second Randomised Coffee Trial (RCT) this year and what a fantastic experience it has been. I love the name as its links closely to my job role as a Research Nurse. I talk a lot about RCT (Randomised Controlled trials) in my day to day role so taking part in the Randomised Coffee Trial made perfect sense.

What is a Randomised Coffee Trial you may ask? RCT is simply a meeting between two random employees/professionals to discuss their job and interests. Connecting two people who wouldn’t normally get the chance to meet and have a conversation.

The purpose and objectives of an RCT is to gain insight into other people’s job roles, to build relationships across different areas and work better together to achieve joint aims and objectives.

My first experience of a Randomised Coffee Trial was back in May this year. I was paired with a nurse in a different part of the country through NHS Horizons. We met through Skype one evening with cuppa in hand and we discussed our roles, what we liked, disliked and our future plans. The 30 minutes went by so quickly. 

What I took away from that meeting was how passionate my RCT partner was about her job, she told of her experiences visiting schools to promote her profession. I hope I inspired my RCT partner to look at research in more detail and that  my passion for my job shone through. We had so much in common but had never met before randomisation.

My second experience was this week, with a member of staff in my own organisation who again I had never met. Again 30 minutes was not enough. I learnt so much from my RCT partner. It enabled us to start to break down silos, understand our roles better, share common interests, and definitely share ideas, things that we could move forward with in the future.

I left both meetings buzzing with ideas and new information. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to have taken part in the Randomised Coffee Trials both nationally and locally. I’m definitely more the wiser because of them. 

Please note: Drinking coffee is not in the eligibility criteria – both times I drank hot chocolate!

#Nursesactive challenge

Well another #nursesactive challenge has ended. Although, I have not contributed half as much as my nursing colleagues, their enthusiasm and passion has definitely been infectious. One such example is an amazing colleague who completes regular park runs and has tried so hard to encourage me during the #nurseactive challenge, asking what I am doing to become more active and posting pictures of her walks on to twitter. I think peer support really does work, if you promote getting active enough to your colleagues, it does encourage them to make a start or keep exercising.

At work, we are sent regular sessions for desk to 5k. Something I would like to achieve but I am embarrassed to say I cannot run far. I have however started to run (two minutes at a time) with my son. It is hard going but I am determined to try to become more active. In the office where I work, we have a wonderful colleague who ensures I get a daily walk during lunch, rain or shine. She encourages the office to walk and now we have a regular little walking group. She runs at the weekend and she gives me tips on how to overcome my running faux pas.

Every Thursday I get a ping to my email, a blog from a friend. They are wonderful little blogs promoting health and wellbeing such as how to reduce stress; top tips for staying healthy and the power of lavender. One particular favourite informed me, it was world chocolate day!!! This Thursday my friend set a self-care challenge. I love a challenge and eagerly read the tasks. I can proudly say I do many of the self-care activities every day but on the list was exercise!!!

I am getting the hint and I really do want to become fitter. I really do believe in the power of peer support whether its promoting a healthy life style at work or a month focused campaign such as the #nursesactive challenge. They do make you sit up, think, and encourages you to take small steps to improve your health throughout the year, not just the month.

So thank you to my colleagues, family and friends for encouraging and supporting me either face to face  or via the #nursesactive posts, you are all inspirational.

Today I am celebrating my one-year blog anniversary.

How it first started:

I had been talking to a friend about blogging for a while but I did not think I had anything important to say. When my daughter commenced a blog for university, she also discussed the value of blogging and said I should get started. Nevertheless, I never really got around to setting one up.

However, one night in June I was challenged by that same friend to complete a blog for NHS Horizons. From June 2018 until May 2019, there would be one challenge per month. Writing a blog was July’s challenge and it coincided with the NHS70 celebrations. Therefore, the NHS Horizons team wanted 70 nurses and 70 midwives to complete a blog promoting their profession. This, I was later told was one blog about being a nurse! What my friend had linked me to via twitter was a @bloggernurse page that had taken the challenge a step further and set out a challenge each day on a different topic of nursing/midwifery – examples like five top tips for nurses, proudest moment, hidden talent.

My own personal challenge was to ensure that a research nurse was part of the NHS70. I wanted to add so much about my passion for research into the blog as I could.

I completed my blog every night and sat in the garden preparing for the following week in the lovely sunshine at weekends. Looking back the challenge was hard work; I do not know how I did it. However, the rewards were amazing.

What was the benefit:

  1. The challenge got me started. I am still blogging today! Not every night but I try to add a blog monthly.
  2. Highlights the role of a research nurse and my profession.
  3. It is my opinions/ my story and I reflect on my practice, which helps organise my thoughts.
  4. Helping me to improve my writing style.
  5. Meeting new people via presentations I have given about my blogs and via uploading my blogs to twitter.
  6. Builds Rapport and Engagement with student nurses and two blogged that I had inspired them to look at research as a career opportunity. What can be better than that!
  7. Recognition a copy of my blog along with 70 other nurses and midwives was handed to the chief nursing officer.


I am sure there any many more benefits to blogging that I have not even thought of yet. What I do know is that if you are thinking of blogging give it a go. I promise you will not regret it.


The School for Change Agents 2019 – NHS Horizons

Do you want to make a difference in your organisation? NHS Horizons posted this question on twitter many weeks ago. Yes, I really do want to make a difference, I am very proud to work for the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network West Midlands. If I could make even a small difference to patients, my team, my managers and the wider organisation it would feel like an amazing achievement but where does one start?

Six weeks on from the School for Change Agent’s launch it quickly became apparent that this was the course for me. School for Change Agents developed by the NHS Leadership Academy and NHS Horizons hosted via the Future learn platform delivered several manageable bite size modules every week for six weeks. Each night I would log in and complete the modules; articles, quizzes and audio files.  Thursday 3pm was the live one-hour session hosted by what I can only describe as the inspirational Kathryn Perera and motivational Helen Bevan. Unfortunately, for me as I worked during the week I was unable participate in the live hour but luckily, I could catch up and watch the recording later.

School for Change Agents states that ‘You will learn how to become a change agent by generating new ideas, pushing the boundaries, and leading others to do the same in your organisation. You will understand what drives you to create change, how to take action, and how to improve your approaches based on feedback (S4CA)’. I could not agree more.

Going back over my scribbles during the course, significantly for me was the realisation that before change happens; we need ‘a strong shared purpose’. Everything needs to link back to social justice, is the change I am making equal to this? There were many discussions on how to do this. Who are the people that the change will be impact on? What unites us? Why are we taking action?

‘What matters to me’ is circled several times in my notebook. I spent lots of enjoyable time thinking about my story. Three key themes: the story of self, story of us and the story of now. I do not have my story worked out yet, but would really like to share this at some point. I really benefitted from not only my peer’s stories but also the patient’s stories. Stories that once shared are still with me a couple of weeks on.

The School for Change Agents storytellers are all very visible on social media, which nicely leads me on to my favorite quest during the course ‘super connectors’. Who are the 3% of people who are the ‘super connectors’ in my organisation? I am definitely having fun finding out.

School for Change Agents has definitely given me tools to take forward to become a change agent. I only wish I knew what my shared purpose was. Nevertheless, for now, it may be sharing some of my knowledge to help others with their change journey. One example where I have used my new skills is when a colleague who had such a wonderful cost saving idea but was down beat because all her peers were asking so what; this is how we have always done it. She was so passionate about her improvement. I discussed the tools I had gained during my time with the School for Change Agents. She went away definitely driven to make that change, ready to tell her story, find people who like me believed in her plan. It made me smile as she walked away ‘Resilience is definitely an act of defiance’.

Thank you Helen Bevan and Kathryn Perera and the School for Change Agents for such a thought provoking few weeks.