Being a Neonatal nurse at St George’s
Band 5 nurse Rafaella joined the Neonatal team straight from university, and has thrived in the unique environment here. She is now being fully funded by the department to take a post-graduate specialist neonatal nursing course, based at St George’s University London, which is also on our main site.
“It is an exciting place to work, and the work is challenging, but also hugely rewarding,” she said.
“As a level three hospital, with our size and status as a trauma centre, and specialist facilities, we are caring for a wide range of babies, including some of the sickest. The relationships we have, with parents, other nurses and consultants are all vital day-in, day-out, and part of what makes the job so motivating and interesting.
“It is a very supportive environment, from induction, being mentored, encouraged and funded to take a specialist course, through to the day-to-day learning and support from people around me.
“I have been made to feel comfortable, and also very safe in doing tasks, knowing I have the support of people around me and I won’t be asked to do anything I am not comfortable with. It’s a great place to start and develop your career, with challenges and opportunities you wouldn’t get elsewhere. I am also learning lots on the post-graduate course, which lasts around nine months. It part of getting the knowledge and experience to continue my career here and hopefully move up to a Band 6 role.”
The opportunities for training, development and career progression helped attract Ines to St George’s – and she has gained qualifications and promotion to Band 6.
“I have completed courses in special care, high dependency and intensive care, as well as study days, and it is a real benefit to have the hospital supporting and funding you to develop your skills,” she said.
Ines started her nursing career in a very different environment, in the spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville, before joining St George’s. Having progressed to become a Band 6 nurse, Ines is often responsible for day to day work of the special care team, and has mentoring responsibility for new Band 5 nurses.
“All nurses here are great at helping people settle in and learn, and doctors happy to spend time helping with queries and improving our knowledge and experience. We receive a lot of difficult cases but there is a real commitment to helping staff learn and develop in what can be a fast-paced and challenging unit. This all contributes to us giving families the best experience we can.”
“I learn something new on every shift” is just one of the reasons Beth Hall enjoys life in the Neonatal Unit.
Bethany joined the team from university in 2014, and has already progressed to Band 6, where she is enjoying the increased responsibility, and helping new starters settle into the team.
She trained as an adult nurse but was attracted to Neonatal by the diversity of the role and also by St George’s commitment to training and development.
“The prospect of being funded to take a post-graduate neonatal course was a big attraction too, as I really enjoy the academic side of nursing as well as the practical work. Right from the start with the structured induction, there has been lots of opportunity to learn and regular training,” Bethany said
“I really appreciate the structured progression too, so you can manage the demands of learning and a busy workplace effectively. The theory and knowledge you gain aligns very well alongside your daily work – you can really see why you are doing what you are doing.”
Bethany has enjoyed the rapid learning curve and “the fantastic support from the moment I joined from other nurses and practice educators”, and also moving into her new role: “Being a Band 6 is quite a distinct role in Neonatal as you get to take responsibility for special care or high dependency or intensive care rooms for shifts, alongside the sister. We also mentor and help teach under-graduates and new graduates joining the Unit which is a great role to take on.”
The mutual support runs across the department, she explained: “For example, consultants know we are spending 12 hours cot-side and they really listen to our views and want our input. This all goes to making you feel really valued as part of the team and in having a vital role to play in caring for children and their families.”
Thirty five years after joining St George’s, Ursula Darlington’s passion for neonatal nursing and helping others develop their career shines through as brightly as ever.
“I feel very privileged to work with families when they are so vulnerable, and to be able to make a difference to their experience when their babies are in our care, whatever the outcome,” she said.
As a Band 6 with line management and training responsibilities, Ursula has seen many great neonatal nurses grow their careers with St George’s: “People skills are very important in this setting, as is the desire to want to be challenge, often outside your original comfort zone,” she explained.
“Post-graduates will get amazing opportunities, from a structured and supportive induction and through comprehensive training and experience on the job. We are committed to providing nurses with a very safe environment. Consultants and nurses would never expect anyone to do tasks they weren’t comfortable and confident with.
“You will get amazing experiences here – every surgical and medical issue comes into our unit. We see extremely premature babies through to post-mature. In many ways it is similar to A&E with such a varied workload. You also learn every family is different. The experience here is unique and I have never wanted to work anywhere else.
Having trained and worked in an acute trust as an adult nurse, Catherine is more than happy she took up the chance to join St George’s and do “what I’d always wanted to do – work in Neonatal”.
“Every day is interesting and I feel like I am always progressing in my skills and my experience. Although I‘d had experience of intensive care, it was very new here and of course with the added challenge of supporting parents through difficulty times. Our mentors and more experienced colleagues are so supportive and helped me from the early days onwards. I feel I can make a real difference, not just to the babies in our care, but to their families too.”
Catherine is particularly grateful of how St George’s invests in its staff: “I am very fortunate to be doing a specialists Neonatal intensive care course which the Trust is funding. We are also encouraged to take up study days and develop our skills, and consultants and other nurses always take the time to explain things and help expand our experience.
“I hope to continue onto to become a Band 6, and I know I will continue learning and developing every day.”