In our latest blog, Improvement Advisor Jen Pennycook describes what it’s been like to return to her previous team at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, and shares her insights on working on the frontline, looking after family and staying resilient.
Before joining Healthcare Improvement Scotland full time as an Improvement Advisor in the ihub’s Acute Care Portfolio in 2019, I was a Practice Development Nurse at the Beatson for five years. I’d been seconded to Healthcare Improvement Scotland part time as Nursing Clinical Lead since October 2017, so by the time I joined full time, I was already familiar with my colleagues and our work.
During that time, I also mentored one of my Beatson colleagues, a staff nurse, to act up on those days I was on secondment. I was delighted that when I moved to Healthcare Improvement Scotland she got the job full time.
“My role has been to train staff to use PPE, whether they’re porters, nurses, domestics or consultants. Our small team has already trained around 300 to 400 staff across the Beatson in the four weeks since I came back.“
Nearly one year on, the COVID-19 crisis hit us all. Improvement programmes were paused and we were deployed to support the system. I was keen to return to the Beatson as I knew the team was busy educating staff around using, fitting and ensuring an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), not to mention alleviating fears by teaching them how to stay safe.
My role has been to train staff to use PPE, whether they’re porters, nurses, domestics or consultants. Our small team has already trained around 300 to 400 staff across the Beatson in the four weeks since I came back.
Using PPE like this is completely new to some staff. Our updates come from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) in a core brief based around Health Protection Scotland guidance. At the Beatson, the Practice Development Education and Research Unit is responsible for monitoring the updated guidance and educating others. It’s a big responsibility, but I love it!
One of the most rewarding aspects has been seeing how well my previous colleagues are working together, not least the colleague who took on the role I left. Being back in the team also makes me realise how much I’ve grown. Although I enjoy working at the Beatson, it’s shown me how much I love being part of the Acute Care Portfolio. I enjoy working with teams in different boards and seeing the impact of implementing improvement programmes at national level.
Patient care is paramount at the Beatson, just as it is across NHSScotland. All of the staff are more flexible than ever about what tasks they take on and what hours they work – I’ve worked weekends and out of hours to deliver PPE education sessions. Across the board at every level, people are stepping up without hesitation. As a nurse, I’m ready to take on anything, including working on wards if needed. The team working has been incredible and I hope this supportive behaviour continues after this crisis is over.
The biggest challenge for me, as I’m sure it is for many of us, is maintaining a healthy work/life balance. At work, initiatives like opening the Beatson Cancer Charity Wellbeing Centre to staff as a place to relax have been a welcome move. Treats being delivered to staff have also been much appreciated! In both my Beatson and Healthcare Improvement Scotland teams, we share information and humour using WhatsApp groups – talking is essential. It’s been really inspiring to see how much we are supporting each other.
“Across the board at every level, people are stepping up without hesitation. As a nurse, I’m ready to take on anything, including working on wards if needed. The team working has been incredible and I hope this supportive behaviour continues after this crisis is over.“
While I love my work, family is also incredibly important to me. My husband is also a key worker and we’re making sure our elderly parents and our next-door neighbour, are healthy and keeping well stocked.
We’re also fitting in home schooling our daughter, Lucy, in between shifts. She’s in first year and is working to a self-made timetable. I ‘m incredibly proud of her being mature and responsible enough to manage her own schoolwork and look after herself when my husband and I are out at work. She likes to keep fit in the mornings with Strictly’s Oti Mabuse. As proud as I am of her, she made my heart swell recently when she said, “I’m so proud of you Mummy, being a nurse and helping people.”
Jen Pennycook is an Improvement Advisor within Healthcare Improvement Scotland.