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Meet Our Southern Nightingales

A day in the life of our Southern Trust Nightingales….

2020 has been recognised as the “International Year of the Nurse and Midwife”. A cohort of 15 nurses and midwifes from across our directorates have been given the opportunity to undertake the Nightingale Programme.

Although COVID-19 stalled the programme temporarily, it has now recommenced allowing this group of staff to participate in a range of developmental and leadership opportunities.

We have asked them to reflect on their experiences as young leaders whilst working during the COVID-19 pandemic and hope to present their journeys over the coming months.

  • Michael McMullan, Mental health Nurse based in Community Addictions

    Michael has compiled his reflection into a poem:


    Coronavirus (March 2020)

    On every news channel

    There’s an eerie sense of doom

    With the constant echoing message

    Of “the worst will be here soon”


    We’ve only got the start of it

    There’s plenty more to come

    So please wash your hands

    After you wipe your bum


    Things are getting worse

    New measures are now in place

    Stay six feet from others

    And don’t touch your face


    Cough into a tissue

    Or sneeze on your sleeve

    Disinfect the house

    After the neighbours leave


    The panic has set in now

    Around the world as a whole

    We’re running out of patience

    And fighting over toilet roll


    Pasta is getting scarce

    Hand-gel I cannot find

    People are going crazy

    And starting to lose their mind


    We’re feeding our fears needlessly

    Heeding stories from any source

    It’s only the advice from specialists

    We have to listen to and endorse


    Schools are now closed

    And social distancing is key

    Stopping this coronavirus

    Is down to you and me


    So distance yourself from others

    Don’t let them in the house

    But there’s no getting rid of

    The children or the spouse



    If you have any symptoms

    Like a temperature or a cough

    Please just be sensible

    And isolate yourself off


    Take the advice seriously

    And give your doctor a ring

    We have to help one another

    Until we get over this thing


    Don’t visit the elderly

    Or those at high risk

    Bring them their essentials

    But make the drop off brisk


    This virus has no borders

    Nor does it discriminate

    So if there’s a chance you have it

    You need to hibernate


    Be kind to each other

    And go that extra mile

    Help those in need

    And make a stranger smile


    For it is in this adversity

    That we will find the value of life

    That respecting others matters

    Whether it’s a stranger or your wife


    Don’t leave another to suffer

    In pain or in distress

    It is more than just you

    Trying to survive this mess


    We’ll have to be creative

    Playing in our back yards

    Getting out the board games

    Or playing a game of cards


    Take this opportunity

    To have some valuable family time

    It won’t always be easy

    Listening to each other whine

    It’s good to see some humour

    When it is done in good taste

    We will get through this hardship

    Like all the others we have faced


    But please be sensitive

    And show compassion too

    As people will suffer heartbreak

    They have loved ones like you


    So think about the vulnerable

    And only buy what you need

    If we stick together, while staying apart

    We are sure to succeed


    In these hard times we will stumble

    But may we never fall apart

    Never give up on each other

    Find the kindness in your heart


    So be kind to one another

    And give your hands a good clean

    And as the world comes together

    We’ll defeat COVID-19


  • Ciara Murphy, Adult Learning Disability Nurse working in Newry and Mourne

    The World Health Organization designated 2020 as the “International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” in honour of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. Little did I know that indeed it would be the year where we as a nursing profession stepped up to battle the COVID-19 pandemic together.

    I had a dual role during the pandemic. As well as a learning disability nurse working within a community adult learning disability team, I also was a link nurse who supported colleagues in the independent sector, nursing homes and supported living facilities. This role involved training and supporting staff and facilities with infection prevention control measures and the appropriate use of PPE and to ensure that all facilities were aware of the updated PHA guidance at all times. This role gave me the opportunity to upskill myself in areas that typically learning disability nurses do not have the opportunity to which will positively change the way I will work in the future.  We were supported in this link nurse role by senior team leads who communicated regularly with us, this was a wonderful resource to have and showed me the essence of effective leadership, which I hope to model going forward in my career. For me I have grown both personally and professionally and with the added knowledge and skills it helped me gain confidence in providing a leadership role within various settings in relation to COVID-19.

    Key leadership skills that I was able to demonstrate included crisis management, working through competing demands, dealing with difficult situations and having difficult conversations. Subsequently I have gained resilience, self-assurance and composure which will help me to continue in my current busy role and role model for other nurses / staff within my team

    Unfortunately, I had first-hand experience of dealing with a service user and their family who sadly lost their life to COVID-19 during this pandemic. This was a surreal experience for me as a young nurse who had a good rapport with this service user and their family and I had to manage my emotions and maintain composure to ensure I was fully supportive to them all at this time. I was involved in dealing with acute hospital services, disability services, Independent advocacy services, family and legal team and became an advocate for ensuring this patient was cared for appropriately within acute hospital services.  I have developed my skills in relation to ‘compassionate’ leadership, keeping calm under pressurising circumstances and maintaining my professionalism whilst fulfilling my day to day role.

    This pandemic has most definitely changed the way I work as a nurse. It has strengthened my dedication and commitment to ensuring people with a learning disability health needs are met safe and effectively. It has reinforced my leadership abilities and has made me more pro-active in reflecting on previous practice, negotiating and adapting and learning from experiences. It has also allowed me to see true leadership in action, and this is something I aspire to be.

    I have been privileged to work alongside amazing colleagues, fellow nurses, SLTs, OTs, Consultants, social workers and Physios who all have played vital roles in supporting our service users during this challenging and pressurised time. And whilst we continue to respond to COVID-19 in the months ahead I look forward to continuing to rise to the challenge.

  • Jane Acheson, Learning Disability Nurse, working in Crisis Response, Dungannon

    In the early days of your nursing career a global pandemic is the least thing you’d expect to experience. I work within the learning disability crisis response home treatment team and we have continued working at full operational capacity throughout the pandemic. As a team we have faced challenges during this time,  we have continued to provide the same service for our client group whilst adhering to government guidelines around face to face client contact.  The client group I work with are adults with a learning disability and the majority of this client group present with communication impairments and PPE adds an additional barrier to effective communication. Responding to crisis situations with the clients in our service can often be a highly emotive situation where people are at a crisis point and maintaining a 2 metre distance is not conducive to a therapeutic rapport.

    A positive outcome from COVID-19 it has brought out good leadership qualities, especially for younger nurses, and strengthened the bonds of the team. We’ve all had to recognise that our safety and well-being is in the hands of our colleagues.

    I also have been given the added responsibility of the role of link nurse visiting independent sector nursing homes to provide infection prevention and control and COVID-19 advice. This meant upskilling myself to meet the demands of this role to be able to provide timely, evidence based, accurate information and advice.  I have had to become more creative with the interventions that I provide to clients receiving home treatment or in crisis situations as the usual de-escalation techniques which would be used have been compromised. We met together as a team to develop new strategies and coping mechanisms which we could offer all the while considering the COVID guidelines.

    This period of crisis has been an opportunity to collectively improve the leadership culture across the NHS. It is vital that, as the NHS responds to Covid-19 challenges, our leaders and managers have modelled and promoted compassion in an enduring way including self-compassion.  I believe compassionate leadership is the most effective way people can deal with what feels frightening and overwhelming and leaders need to focus compassion on all those who provide health and care services whatever their role or position within key services.

    Being a young nurse throughout a global pandemic has offered me the opportunity to improve and develop on my leadership skills, it has taught me that as nurses we are very resilient, we rise to the challenge and ensure that holistic, person centred care is provided to our patients whilst putting ourselves and our loved ones at risk.

    As a profession nurses are highly skilled and motivated within our specific fields of practice. All nurses whom I have had contact with, especially during this pandemic, have great wisdom, experience and profound values of compassion, which I have enhanced during my experience of this health care crisis.

  • Claire Myers, Midwife in Daisy Hill Hospital

    Midwifery during coronavirus

    New words we have learnt but have we understood,

    The meaning of pandemic, coronavirus, covid, it’s a wonder we could.

    New rules and advice, social distancing isn’t nice.

    No daddies, no siblings, less noise and less strife.

    Some tearful moments with visors and masks

    makes us staff feel less human as we try to adapt.

    It’s hot and its steamy under the advice we receive

    to protect the public and to protect me.

    It’s a new way of working with less positives to see,

    unless you enjoy dehydration for free!

    The times are changing and daddies are allowed to support their partners,

    but wait, it’s only for a short time.

    I may have been too quick in my decision to say,

    maybe there is some good in the ‘new way’.

    Less visitors have given the mummies some space

    to cuddle and bond with their baby and not make decisions with haste.

    A mummy, a midwife among many a role,

    means I see the raw reality of this ugly new world.

    In amongst all the chaos the beauty within of my own little miracle,

    a pre-covid wee’un.

    Birth in all its glory remains a mystery to most.

    Growing, birthing, feeding and the enjoying the best tea and toast!

    Shift after shift we stand amazed at the women we meet,

    all while adjusting to the extreme NHS heat!

    The future it seems will be different from what we have known.

    Wash your hands, keep your distance, only hug your own.

    We will continue to provide care, support and nurture our women,

    the pandemic won’t stop us, not now, not ever.

  • Ashling Tinnelly, Band 6 Clinical Sister in the Acute Care @ Home Team.

    My team provides a “hospital at home” service and we treat elderly patients in their own home, nursing homes, residential homes etc. for conditions such as chest and urinary infections, heart failure, and dehydration. We administer intravenous antibiotics, medications and also intravenous / subcutaneous fluids to patients, these treatments that would normally require patients to attend ED followed by a stay in hospital but our aim is to provide this treatment at home and thus avoid the patient needing to attend an already overcrowded and busy ED/hospital ward.

    During the Covid 19 Pandemic I found an increase within our work load as our patient capacity had increased by 88%, meaning we were a lot busier than usual circumstances. A large number of our patients were residents of local nursing homes which sadly were taken over by COVID 19 and large numbers of both patients and staff contracted and became very unwell with this virus.

    We were treating up to 8 residents in one nursing home all very unwell with Coronavirus, increasing their nursing and medical needs as they required closer monitoring, needed oxygen, IV antibiotics and also fluid therapy due to dehydration.

    Working during the pandemic was daunting and presented its own challenges, in particular having to wear the PPE especially within a warm nursing home environment, where we could have been there for hours at a time seeing patients and providing care. We had to adapt how we assessed and reviewed our patients in order to ensure effective infection control measures and also that staff and patient safety were not put at risk. Our team was used as a huge support mechanism within these nursing homes towards both patients and staff.

    As well as looking after patients in local nursing homes we provided care to patients in their own homes also some who were very ill with Coronavirus. It was a comfort for patient’s families to be able to keep their loved ones at home and have care provided to them instead of being admitted to hospital where families were not permitted to visit and the number of patients with Coronavirus was at an all-time high.

    I feel the pandemic has strengthened our sense of team work and our sense of morale; we were not only a support to our patients but also to each other and as one of the more senior nurses in the team I felt it was important to try and remain positive and help ease the worries and stresses of my colleagues. I feel working during the pandemic has taught me to cope with stressful/demanding situations within my Band 6 Role in terms of dealing with worried families, stressed Nursing Home staff and also our own staff who worked tirelessly during this pandemic to provide the best care to our patients.

    The Nightingale challenge has provided us with great opportunities throughout this year and although many events were postponed or cancelled due to restrictions, we were able to attend many virtual events and training days. That way we could engage and hear the thoughts of fellow Nightingales throughout the world and how they are completing their challenges at one event we attended The Health Minister as well as First Minister and Deputy First Minister showed their gratitude and appreciation to all NHS staff for all their hard work during the pandemic.


    It has been an honour to be chosen to represent my team and the SHSCT during the Nightingale Challenge and I have no doubt 2020 will always been remembered as the “Year of the Nurse” given the struggles this global pandemic has brought, and the tough times nurses all over the world have dealt with and worked through in 2020.

25.02.20 Nightingale Challenge launch