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Bubbles, cuddles and tea on the NHS

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To celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the NHS this Thursday 5 June, we asked NHS professionals to share reflections on their roles in children’s palliative care. Here Kath Evans, Experience of Care Lead for Children, Young People and Maternity at NHS England shares her thoughts.

As a children’s nurse, taking time to reflect on my career, it has always been a real privilege to care for children, young people and families whose lives have been shortened due to complex health issues.

As professionals we assess and deliver a range of interventions, including the administration of often very complex medication regimes and ensuring that pumps accurately dispense medications. Over the years, I’ve stood in many treatment rooms, diligently checking prescriptions, calculating drugs, setting up syringe drivers and infusions, leafing through the British National Formulary for Children (BNFc), phoning pharmacists to ensure children get exactly the right medications. I’ve also spent what seemed like an age on the phone contacting Allied Health Professional colleagues, arranging assessments and equipment, dropping in feeding tubes on my way home as I pass a child’s house to save yet another drive to the hospital for weary parents. And in delivering such complex care, having access to education programmes that inform, challenge and expand my knowledge has been essential in ensuring that the care delivered is technically correct and evidence-based.

Yet despite the high level of competence required in health care, it’s the bubbles, cuddles and tea, alongside other ‘human care’ interventions that are a consistent theme in my memories of children’s, young people’s and families’ care.

What is it about a tub of bubbles (or even better a bubble machine!) that brings a smile to everyone’s face no matter how young or old? Or the impact of a cup of tea when news has been shared and planning of the next stage in a health care journey begins? Or sitting through the night comforting and cuddling a baby so that the parents can have some vital sleep?

Being a children’s nurse is amazing, and whilst now I may be focusing on more management and policy related issues, it’s the direct care experiences that will remain with me for ever.

One of the real highlights of my current role is working with children, young people and families to ensure their voices are heard in our improvement journey in the NHS. The young people of the NHS Youth Forum tweeting as @NHSYouthForum, and others like Lucy Watts (@LucyAlexandria). Mums like Chezelle (@whatsinakiss), Joanne (@mothers_Inst_), and Zoe (@4AdsthePoet). All of them teach me and the wider NHS so much about the changes we can make to keep making care as good as it possibly can be.

As we celebrate #NHS70 this week and look to the future of children’s health care, competence of course is vital. Yet it’s the compassion that sticks with people as we constantly learn from and engage with children, young people and families.

Kath Evans is Experience of Care Lead, Children, Young People and Maternity, NHS England and Interim Director of Nursing (Babies, Children and Young People) Barts Health
Follow Kath on Twitter – @kathevans2

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