I qualified as a children’s and adult nurse in 1991 in Belfast, N. Ireland. Shortly after, I moved to Leicester in England to take up my first staff nurse position working in a children’s high dependency unit. It was there that my passion was born for children with complex respiratory medical needs, and it’s also sadly where I supported the first family where one of twin girls died after spending many months on the unit.
I have always enjoyed studying and whilst working in the hospital I completed my first degree in Health Studies. My dissertation, a literature review looking at the affect of HIV on children and families paved the way for my success in my first specialist nurses role working with children and families with HIV infection.
Working between the acute sector and community in various positions was something that I have continued to perfect during my 25 year clinical career. During this time I also gained both a Masters and non-medical prescribing qualification which enabled me to practice autonomously as an Advanced paediatric nurse practitioner, specialising in respiratory medicine and allergy.
Running my own clinics, managing my own caseloads, visiting children in their own homes helped shape my desire to see change, to impact and influence, encouraging me to participate and represent nursing and my specialist interest in many different and national forums, at conferences and in publishing my first articles.
As my leadership skills developed Helena responded to several opportunities to lead service development, consult and advise on children’s nursing, manage a community nursing team and build a team of specialist nurses working across the hospital and community sectors. In 2006 I became one of very few nurse consultants in children’s nursing across the UK. Part of this role entailed teaching one day a week at the local university’s school of nursing. Spending time with student nurses, empowering them to be the best they could be helped me decide to move my career into nurse education. During my time at De Montfort University’s Leicester School of Nursing and Midwifery, as Associate Professor and Head of Division I influenced the design and delivery of teaching and learning in children’s and adult nursing. I also completed my doctorate, which focused on the theory of place attachment in children’s hospices.
Determination, self-motivation and the opportunity to make a difference have been qualities which I have tried to embody throughout my career.Helena
I would encourage nurses to confidently seek opportunities to share practice, be change agents, be ambassadors for their field and speciality. There are many national opportunities for nurses such as awards, travel scholarships, leadership training, help with education and funding research. In 2020 I applied and was successful in achieving a Churchill Fellowship to explore palliative care provision, education and training in an international context. Unfortunately the pandemic halted this opportunity but I am hoping to travel oversees early next year.
Clinical experience, knowledge and skills, leadership, education and research have been the cornerstones of my career. My strategic role at Together for Short Lives, as Director of Service Development and Improvement, has now given me the opportunity to pull together thirty years of children’s nursing and academic experience to make a difference to the growing number of children with life-limiting conditions and their families in the UK.