Friendly Face of the National Health Service; Caring Career Offers Job Satisfaction but Few Financial Rewards

Article excerpt

Byline: Felicity Morgan

With increasing demand for better patient care and access to the most advanced drugs come pressures that are brought to bear on staff at the front line of the National Health Service. As part of a series of interviews for HealthWatch Felicity Morgan speaks to a practice nurse who talks about being recognised in Tesco and her affection for good old-fashioned patient care HELEN JONES is a nurse who doesn't work in a hospital. Instead she provides crucial support to GPs and a valuable service to her local community, yet her role as a practice nurse is often overshadowed by assumptions that all nurses work on the wards.

But despite the many frustrations she has encountered throughout her career, not even nursing salaries have tempted her to try anything else.

With 30 years' nursing experience, three children and a husband who is a GP (not in the same practice), Helen has learned a thing or two about the health service, not least that it's best to avoid the subject at the dinner table!

With just 30 hours a week, Helen achieves a staggering amount.

Health promotion, family planning, cervical cytology, immunisations and health monitoring of all patients over 75 are just part of the job description. On top of that there are the weekly asthma, diabetic, heart disease and well-woman clinics to organise and run.

Based at Porthceri surgery in Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, Helen says the best thing about her job is that she is valued by patients and by the doctors who employ her and is able to make a real difference to people's lives.

"Because Porthceri is such a small practice we all work together as a team towards the single aim of doing our best for patients, " she said.

"I feel like I work alongside them, not one step behind them, and that gives me a great sense of purpose.

"I think of myself as a very proactive nurse and I feel I can do a lot to support the GPs and take some of the pressure off, " said Helen, who is 48.

Working as part of a practice allows her to develop a rapport with her patients and follow their development, she explained.

"Patients are in and out of hospital so quickly these days it's hard to feel any sense of satisfaction that you've been able to help a person.

"There is no better feeling than when a patient comes to you and says 'thank you so much, I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been for you'."

Having trained as a ward nurse in London's Hammersmith Hospital in 1971, Helen moved to Cardiff in 1976 with her husband Stephen.

She later worked as a ward sister in the cardiology unit and ultimately as a nurse tutor at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

Seeing heart disease in its later stages gave her the determination to work on disease prevention.

Helen believes in the holistic approach to health promotion and says it is important to understand a person's social circumstances because they also influence a person's physical health.

"I try to get the whole picture when a patient comes to see me because treatment is never just about giving someone a pill, " she said.

Referrals to the local gym or simply a 10-minute chat are just as effective methods of treatment, and patient contact is the all-important factor.

"I think it helps that people see me as a real person because I live locally, shop in Tesco and walk around town, " she said. …