‘You feel privileged and honoured to help families’ - three nurses describe why they love their jobs

Ruth Sanders

Ruth Sanders - Credit: Archant

Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Staff at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) celebrated yesterday with an exhibition on research, health and well-being with talks from nurses on their careers and experiences. Here three nurses tell why they love their jobs...

Ruth Sanders

Ruth Sanders had every intention of training to be a primary school teacher, but when she became pregnant she was inspired by her midwife to change her plans.

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'I had never thought of it before. She was just amazing and I had this feeling if I could do for somebody what she enabled me to feel like in quite a challenging situation then I would have done a good thing,' she explained.

Following the birth of her son, Arthur, she joined the maternity services liaison team to get an insight into the way the NNUH Trust works and what is important to mums and families.

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She said she was really excited to get a place on the course and started her training when Arthur was nearly two, putting him into nursery full-time.

She already had two art-related degrees but she says her training was 'the most challenging degree I had done.'

Ms Sanders qualified in August last year after three years' training and in a competitive world she was offered a job working 15 hours a week. But her hours were not enough for a single parent to live on and she faced getting a job in a café near her Norwich home.

In desperation she started ringing round to see if any organisation could help her. She found a helpful welcome when she spoke to the Cavell Nurses Trust charity which supports nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants and students who are in financial or personal hardship during their training, career or retirement.

'I sent in an application and they gave me a small amount of money which made a difference and I could meet the rent - plus Christmas was a lot less stressful for my five-year-old. It was a little help that made a lot of difference and I didn't need a second job.'

Her hours then went up and she was soon working full-time in the job she loves.

'It's an amazing job. You feel privileged and honoured to help families at such a crucial time in their lives. It's all about them and you want to make it a really positive experience,' she said.

'On my first day on the community team I saw a baby being born. It was a home birth and it was my first and the midwife's 100th. It was a moment when you well up yourself but you remind yourself it's their moment not yours.

'The first baby made me cry, but then lots do - I go when the dads cry.

It's magic every time, it's a miracle.'

After that first birth she completed 39 more deliveries as part of her training and since qualifying has been able to deliver alone.

Danny Edmonds

Danny Edmonds says he is lucky because he always knew he wanted to be a nurse, his dream was to join A&E, and in 2002 he began his training at the University of East Anglia.

Now, he says, although it is hard work, he would recommend the career he has become passionate about because: 'You make a difference. You change people's lives on a daily basis.'

'Although at times nursing is incredibly pressured, it is a career like no other. You'll see and do things others don't even think of. It opens millions of different career pathways and experiences, but I think mainly it offers you the chance to make a difference in someone's life and that's a very special gift.'

His first post after qualifying at the age of 20 was in A&E. 'The first six to 12 months of being a nurse were scary - the responsibility, the pressure, the hours and the demands initially very daunting. But the team was amazing and the support incredible. I've made some lifelong friends from that department and it's left a long lasting impression on me.'

He says the best part of being an A & E nurse was the buzz of never knowing what was coming in the door next, from a minor wound to a serious road accident. He loved the fast pace flow but he didn't like seeing patients being 'rude, disrespectful and aggressive' towards staff trying to care for them.

Danny later became a staff nurse on A&E then moved up to become a charge nurse on the Acute Medical Unit. After that he started working as a site nurse practitioner and for the past year he has been a site manager.

His current role is very different to previous jobs he has had within the NNUH. It involves maintaining safety and high standards of care delivery as well as supporting nursing staff.

The team of site managers work 24/7 to facilitate flow through the hospital from when a patient walks into A&E to being discharged from a ward. They work very closely with the matrons to ensure the smooth running of the hospital and act as a link between the nursing staff and senior levels of management.

Out of hours they are the most senior members of the nursing team responsible for what happens on the site and for the staff working on it.

Danny says he wants to continue developing his career and loves what he is currently doing. 'I like change and development, challenges and taking things forward'.

He warns anyone thinking about a career in nursing: 'Don't come into nursing for the glamour, you'll be very disappointed.'

'But you make a difference. You change people's lives on a daily basis. You inspire people to carry on fighting, you support patients and families at their lowest points in their lives, you give life and offer dignity in death. You train the nurses of the future, you offer hope and solutions. You comfort and you care'.

Sue Flynn

Sue Flynn loves coming into work: she has spent the past 30 years caring for old people.

'The elderly are very interesting people,' said the N&N health care assistant. 'They come in when they are really ill, then a few days or weeks later you see them walking out well again.'

Her mother was a staff nurse at the former West Norwich Hospital and Mrs Flynn joined the NHS in 1981 in catering. Once she had her four children she decided to step into nursing.

Sue joined the nurses bank and worked on several wards but preferred working with older people. 'They are wonderful people,' she enthuses and remembers back when she first began at the old hospital that there was a large dayroom with a piano where nurses played cards and games with patients and they would sing war time songs with them once a month.

'I have always felt comfortable with the elderly because I could help them more,' she explained. And when people suggested she could rise up the ranks she said she didn't want to, as it would take her away from the patients.

Although nursing has changed a lot she says she looks forward to coming to work and finds time to chat with elderly patients as she helps them to wash.

'I'm 64 and I don't know what I would do if I had to retire.'

As well as her mother having been a nurse two of her daughters are also workings at the hospital. She now has 12 grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

Last year Sue was a winner of an Unsung Hero Award at the annual staff awards for her work on Kimberley ward where she has been for 19 years. She was nominated by many of her colleagues and some patients with one saying she was treated like a Queen when Mrs Flynn looked after her.

If you've been inspired by these stories, you can find out more information at

NHS: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/explore-by-career/nursingRoyal College of Nursing: www.rcn.org.uk/nursing/work_in_health_careNorfolk and Norwich University Hospital: www.nnuh.nhs.uk (Click the careers button)

University of East Anglia: www.uea.ac.uk/health-sciences

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