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  • 12 April 2024
  • 11 min read

My nursing career journey: How I became a Practice Development Nurse at Diaverum

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"I think that your journey is YOUR journey and not anybody else’s."

I ended up working in renal care for Diaverum by chance. Here’s how it happened, why I love my nursing job, what I do, and why I think every nurse should try different specialisms until they find the one they really enjoy.

I’m working class - I needed a job I can rely on

I come from a very deprived area in the midlands - so, a comprehensive school with challenges and really underfunded.

At 15, I left school to work at EON. But I soon realised I hated it. After a couple of months I went back to my secondary school and explained there was no way I was going to carry on doing that, could I come back for sixth form. It was my teachers there that suggested nursing could be a good route for me.

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I had worked with learning disabilities running a social evening for Mencap. And I had nurses in my family. So that made sense. But most of all, I knew I needed a job. I’m from a working class family and I just thought - I need something I can rely on.

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Rubbish placements - I knew hospital wasn’t for me

I was the first person to go to university in our family. It felt great at the time. But when we finished we were the first cohort from that university where there were no jobs to go to. Of course, I did my interview at the Trust, but I just didn’t want to work in the hospital - I had had some rubbish placements.

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Towards the end of my diploma I was actually doubting why I had chosen nursing - I hadn’t enjoyed most placements and now I didn’t know where I wanted to work. I was having second thoughts, even thinking I’d finish and go and do something else. It wasn’t a good time and I felt I had just wasted 3 years.

Thankfully my mum turned me around - beginning by telling me, “don’t be daft” and supporting me and saying I’ll find something that I like.

My first nursing job - in a care home - lasted 3 months

Looking back this is another false start. I applied for a nursing home job and got it. On my very first day the nurse that I was supposed to be working with didn’t turn up. Someone gave me the drugs trolley and sent me to do the meds round. First day with my new PIN number! I was, ‘oh God, what am I going to do!?’ Of course, I did it, but it didn’t feel safe for me in that facility. I was young (21) without any experience.

I like structure and routine. That care home couldn’t provide that. I was there for three months. Although I knew that particular employer and environment wasn’t for me, I loved the patients and knew that I wanted to just give the best care to patients - only in a better setting.

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I didn’t know what dialysis was, but gave it a go anyway

There was a dialysis unit that I used to drive past when we used to go to our local shopping centre. This was before I got the job at the care home. I thought, ‘oh, I'm gonna have a look at them and apply. I don't know what dialysis is, but I'm newly qualified so I'll just apply’.

I didn’t hear anything back. And I took the care home job. But, maybe the stars must have aligned, because just as I was deciding I had to leave the care home, someone in recruitment at Fresenius rang me. I accepted the interview, and then realised ‘oh, that’s that dialysis unit!’

I went for the interview, walked into the clinic. I'd never seen a dialysis machine before and was like, Oh my God! OK, this is gonna be interesting and different!

I started there the week after Christmas 2012, three months after qualifying and starting at the care home. And I loved it.

I was young, it was fast paced, and I loved it

The renal unit was open from 6.30 in the morning to 11 pm. So we did a mixture of earlies, lates, and long days. Sometimes, if I was in on a Saturday evening, I would take my stuff with me to work and get ready in the changing room and then go straight out. I was a young staff nurse and loved it.

The days have a beginning and an end. I never left a shift where I went home and couldn’t sleep. In my hospital placements I always worried about not charting this or that. In the renal unit I could separate things out, have a routine and a lot of structure. And I had support around me. I did that until 2014.

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Diaverum took over and my career took off

At that point the clinic I worked in as a staff nurse was taken over by Diaverum. The first big change was this sense that I was part of a larger team. I started to meet area managers, clinical leads, PDNs, the nursing director.

The changeover could have been difficult - new clinic, new machines, not knowing where anything is, so much disruption. But we had so much support - we even had nurses from Australia and France come to help with the integration.

This was when my eyes really opened up to the opportunities. They paid for my university course, allowed me to schedule study hours around my work, and paid for my travel costs

Around this time, the interim manager took me to one side and asked if I would like to become a senior nurse. I said, ‘well, yeah!’ but I was also in the NHS mindset where people get senior roles because of the amount of years experience they’ve got. She told me, at Diaverum, that doesn’t matter, you’ve got the skills to be a senior nurse.

A senior nurse job came up at a Diaverum unit in Nottingham and I was approached for it. It was a 6 month secondment, so I’d be working in two units, 90 minutes apart. And I’d need to take a renal course. This was when my eyes really opened up to the opportunities with Diaverum. They paid for my university course at Sheffield, allowed me to schedule study hours around my work, and paid for my travel costs to Nottingham.

It was hard work, with a lot of challenges (they had a new staff group in Nottingham that needed a lot of support and I was now the person they came to for answers, as well as new dialysis machines) and I was travelling between Nottingham and Great Bridge, working loads, doing over time - but I was now working as a senior nurse and getting paid a senior nurse salary.

I was working with another senior nurse and the clinic manager admitting patients, putting processes in place, procedures, getting the drugs, interviewing staff - a month to set it up before open day. That was another great experience

So when that secondment came to an end, another internal opportunity came up - a senior nurse job in Redditch. I applied and was successful. New clinic, clean slate. I was working with another senior nurse and the clinic manager admitting patients, putting processes in place, procedures, getting the drugs, interviewing staff - a month to set it up before open day. That was another great experience. It’s a great clinic there in Redditch and one of the staff nurses I interviewed is now the clinic manager!

And then I became deputy manager… and pregnant

Still at Redditch, when the dep manager left, I applied and got that job…. And then I got pregnant. I had a bad pregnancy but I was so well supported by my employers throughout.

On my return I saw that I was at a cross roads - do I want to go down a clinical route, or do I want to be a manager?

A post came up in Aston (Birmingham) for a Clinic Development Manager. I hadn’t resolved my decision about a career as a clinician or a manager, so this was my way of doing both jobs and finding out.

The clinic was in a bit of trouble. Staff had left, and we were implementing a new structure and turning our CQC around. But we did it… and then I got pregnant AGAIN!

Deciding if my future is as a clinician - my colleagues helped me choose

After returning from maternity leave a second time I felt I was in limbo. There had been a lot of structural changes and people leaving. I had been in Diaverum for 6 years at that point.

I was questioning, ‘do I need a change?’ And I was wondering, ‘is a clinic manager job what I want to do for the rest of my working years?’ I was turning 30 and unsure.

It was at a clinic event within the organisation that I made my mind up. I sat with the clinical team, the practice development nurses and our nursing director, Dawn, who I had a good relationship with.

I started speaking with the PDN, and then I asked Dawn. I was like, ‘Dawn, I think I really want to be a practice development nurse. I don't think I want to be a clinic manager.’

And that’s one of the great things I can say about Diaverum - it doesn't matter what job role you are, you can pick up the phone or e-mail or speak with a director. I really liked that I could speak with Dawn. And it’s still like that now.

And, so, a PDN role came up and I won promotion. That was in 2022. It was the first time it wasn’t a job application that I had to go for, but a promotion. And that’s where I am now.

Practice Development Nurse at Diaverum

My Practice Development Nurse job is perfect for me and my life as a mum and clinician

I am now 33 and a mother of 2 young children, a boy and a girl 4 & 6 years old.

I hot desk - basically, I do not have a base so my car sometimes looks like an office / kids club.

At the moment I am the only practice development nurse at Diaverum, but believe the team will grow, along with the growth of Diaverum in the UK.

I work alongside 4 clinical leads who cover north, midlands and south geographical areas. We all report to the nursing director.

As a practice development nurse I support the clinical leads in their areas as well as have my own specific objectives.

We live, we don't live to work, we work to live. As passionate as I am about my job, family will always come first and that is something in our clinical team that we really, really push

As a team we ensure policy and procedure are up to date and adhered to, ensure clinical governance and the delivery of quality care in all our clinics.

Some of my roles and responsibilities are:

● To teach - weekly meetings, ad hoc, scheduled sessions, individual or group sessions

● Develop training programs including elearning modules

● Support staff in completing their mandatory training by answering any staff or clinic manager queries

● ensure new starters have mentors and the appropriate supernumerary periods

● Visible in clinics to support all staff to deliver quality care to the patients

● Perform yearly clinical audits to ensure safe running of the clinics and support the teams to develop and deliver on action plans

● Integration of new teams joining Diaverum

● Ensure staff get training opportunities such as university modules, study opportunities and conferences

● Evaluate and monitor the data collated by our systems to identify where quality of care can be improved and discuss solutions with managers and teams

● Investigate any serious incidents and give or arrange clinical supervision to any staff involved in serious incidents

● Communicate regularly with trusts and universities

● Communicate with any patients wanting to complement or complain

● Work alongside our clinic managers to ensure we are meeting partner trust KPIs

Diaverum let me launch a student nurse programme

Last year I launched the Diaverum student nurse program that continues to develop and grow.

I had a rubbish experience on most placements. It was only by chance that I discovered renal care. I was lucky.

So, I thought, why aren’t we giving student nurses the opportunity to go on placements in other areas?

So, I came up with an idea, and pitched it to Dawn and, being a fantastic manager, she could see I was passionate and said, if I can make it work for the business, she’ll support me. So I started phoning up universities.

Our clinics now support student nurses on placement during their 2nd and 3rd years in nursing degree. This requires regular communication with the universities, ensuring our staff are trained to support students effectively and the NMC guidelines are followed.

Some of our clinics also support medical students.

...and then re-launch the link nurse programme

Link nurses have always been around in the clinics. But I thought, we need link nurses to be able to get together to share their practice across clinics so that they can start networking and working together on a bigger scale.

So I helped to get that re-launched - I'll set up a link nurse meeting and anybody who can joins in and they can discuss topics, for instance infection, prevention and control.

Outside of Diaverum I am also a lead for the association of nephrology nurses haemodialysis community of practice.

Our aim is to create a network of haemodialysis nurses to share best practice and learn from each other.

My advice for anyone thinking about a career in nursing

There’s a push in the NHS, and when you do placements, to become a general nurse for a few years, before you specialise in something.

I think that your journey is your journey and not anybody else’s. I couldn’t do a drug round on a ward, so why do I need to? A nurse is not a nurse. We’re not a Jack of all trades. We’re all highly specialised, trained people. If you want real satisfaction from your role and you want to specialise, there’s no harm in it.

I would also say try something. Don’t be scared to try a role and if it doesn’t work for you, try something else until you find something that you’re really passionate about and that you enjoy.

Oh, and try a placement in renal - you might love it!

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About the author

I currently work 30 hours a week, balancing my career with my young family. I love my job helping to support our renal clinics around the UK. I provide training, evaluation and staff development needs. I travel quite a lot and my car is a cross between an office and a kids club. In my role I’ve also launched the Diaverum student nurse program, and re-booted the link nurse programme. Outside of Diaverum I am also a lead for the association of nephrology nurses haemodialysis community of practice.

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