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Meet Susan Lea - Malling Health’s Nurse of the Year

02 December 2020

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  • Care Providers

Radar are extremely proud to sponsor Malling Health’s Nurse of the Year Award – a fantastic opportunity to celebrate and say a well-deserved thank you to one of the many invaluable members of Malling’s team.

Spread across the country with nearly 300 staff, Malling Health are an organisation of GP practices, urgent care and out of hours services. They set up Nurse of The Year Award to recognise and celebrate the great work their dedicated team do each and every day.

Susan Lea, Practice Nurse at Malling’s Cambridge Access Surgery, is the very worthy winner. Joanne Howard, Director of Nursing and Quality at Malling Health, tells us why she won:

“Susan won the award as, having made the difficult transition from secondary to primary care just over a year ago, and in to one of the most challenging Primary Care areas, she has truly embraced the challenges faced and has developed an excellent rapport with patients. She has completed a plethora of additional training to enable her to support her patient group. She goes above and beyond every single day and is now supporting the development of other staff in the Practice.”

 

Such a fantastic achievement, we caught up with Susan for a quick chat…

 

Susan, congratulations! How did you feel when you found out you’d won Nurse of the Year?

Completely overwhelmed. I’ve never won anything in my life and it came out of the blue. For once I didn’t have anything to say. I was completely blown away – I think I still am!

Winning

I work in a small but fantastic team at Cambridge Access Surgery, where we offer a dedicated GP service for people who are homeless, living in sheltered accommodation or at risk of homelessness.

Susan Lea

When I was announced as Nurse of the Year, everyone here was so kind. I was shocked because I don’t see it like that – I come in and do my job like everyone else. I cried actually. To be appreciated is lovely, as nursing has a tough time.

With the prize money, I’m going to have a holiday next year somewhere hot and sunny. It will be lovely to get away and have a break.

Getting into nursing

I’ve worked in nursing for 7 years now. It all started when I was working in a sexual health clinic as a support worker. One of the consultants there suggested I train for nursing, and I’ve never looked back.

Since then, I’ve worked as a Macmillan Nurse, supporting with end of life care, and I moved to Cambridge Access Surgery about 18 months ago.

The holistic view and the focus on mental health is what I’m drawn to. The fact that we’re here long term for people, and helping them in as many ways as we can, is so important.

Day to day

There’s never an average day here. I arrive at 8am and log on to look at my planned day, checking whether any of the people we support have been admitted into hospital, who I need to call, and which home visits I need to arrange.

We have a general drop-in clinic every day between 9-11am so people can see us no matter what the problem is. In the afternoon, I might pop out if I need to track down one of our service users because we can’t get in touch with them, or I’ll visit my end of life patients. In the afternoon, we run appointments between 2– 4.30pm which are usually to treat complex wound dressings.

Reaching out

Whenever I can, I go to hostels and day centres to see if there’s anyone new in town that needs encouragement to engage in our services, or to see if the hostels have any concerns over people we know.

I try to bring people back to the Surgery with me there and then. That way, they get to meet us straight away and realise we’re here to help them.

Gaining trust is the key part. Humour goes a long way to achieving this, as well as really listening and simply being ourselves.

Keeping people safe

A lot of our work is about keeping everyone safe until they’re ready to make changes. They will be ready one day, so we make sure everything is set up so they have the support they need to succeed.

One very good success story that always comes to mind is a gentlemen who was taking drugs, in and out of prison, and living on the street. It took a long time but he’s now living in his own flat, working, and no longer using drugs. I’m so proud of him and he feels proud of himself, which absolutely makes my day.

Biggest challenges

Getting our clients who are street homeless into properties and monitoring them during lockdown has been the biggest challenge this year. For people who are used to being in open areas, living in four walls can be really difficult. So, we make regular welfare checks, either by phone or going out to find them. It’s so important to keep them supported and in touch with the right services, and to make sure people are looked after holistically – not just looking at one thing but the overall picture.

Some of the people I help have had to move area to be housed, and that can bring challenges if they’re unsure about the services in their new surroundings. They’ve built trust with us, so we keep in touch to make sure they have the support they need through these particularly difficult times.

One example are the people we support who struggle with alcohol. Going into withdrawal is extremely dangerous so we need to make sure they’re getting the care they need during lockdown – for example, enough food and the right medication.

Staying positive

My two-year-old granddaughter is my happy times. I look after her every Monday and she certainly keeps me active. Discussing the challenges of nursing with colleagues is also important, and I’m a bit of a social butterfly so I need to make sure I spend time with family and friends too.

How we can help

One of the best ways to help our homeless people is by donating practical items like new underwear, socks, shower gels, and tinned food. One of the day centres we work with, Wintercomfort, deliver parcels full of donated items like these weekly to our homeless people, and we go to help.

Final thoughts

Just don’t forget our homeless people over the winter. Times are really hard for them, and even harder without the public being out and about as much. I’d love for us all to keep finding ways to work together to make sure everyone is looked after – that’s it.

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