• 16 February 2021
  • 10 min read

How I Learned Different Nursing Specialties And Moved Up The Nursing Grades And Bands In The NHS

  • Helen Ingleson
    Site Matron - NHS
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Tim Dawson
    • Mat Martin
    • Tabatha Spilsbury
  • 1
  • 1020
"I don’t think the public would ever understand the dark sense of humour that Nurses have to have. If we didn’t laugh sometimes we would cry"

My name is Helen. I’m a registered Nurse from Hull. This is the journey of my first 23 years of my Nursing career as I moved from Newly Qualified Nurse to my current role as a Site Matron.

Topics Covered In This Article

Newly Qualified Nurse - D Grade Nurse On A Medical Elderly Ward

E Grade Nurse - Gynaecology Ward

F Grade Sister - Oncology Ward

Band 7 Neurosurgery Nurse Practitioner

Band 8a Matron

Covid 19 Pandemic

Newly Qualified Nurse - D Grade Nurse On A Medical Elderly Ward

I qualified in 2001 in Adult Nursing, where I obtained my Nursing diploma.

I subsequently studied at the same time as working on the wards and converted my diploma to a degree.

When I first qualified, I had a 5-year plan of what I wanted to achieve, so initially I worked on a medical elderly ward looking after females aged 85 and over.

I felt this was a fantastic ward to start my career on as along with age usually comes co-morbidities (unfortunately for us all).

I gained so many skills and a lot of experience in disease processes, medications, wound dressings and care of the elderly patient.

Such an amazing 3 years there as a newly qualified, fresh out school D grade Nurse that turned into an experienced Nurse overnight (literally).

We never had such a thing as a ‘supernumery’ period back then. Just ‘here’s the keys, get on with it’!

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I remember my first ever day standing with the ward sister and her saying to me, the ward round is starting you can do it with the consultant and here is a student to follow you as well!

Years later I saw the student, now qualified, who said to me how brilliant she thought I was as I just dealt with it and supported/taught her too!

Good job I was feeling brave that day!

It was nice to hear that despite that pressure she felt I was so kind to her and I made an impact in a positive way as she then said she wanted to be like me!

E Grade Nurse - Gynaecology Ward

I then got a promotion to an E grade Nurse on a Gynaecology ward.

I worked there for the next 3 years looking after acute/planned gynae patients.

I met some beautiful people there, patients and staff alike. I spent many a night supporting women who were so scared of losing their babies in early pregnancy to women who had just had there tubes removed in an emergency and feared they would never have children.

I remember being in a supermarket in plain clothes and a woman coming over to me and throwing her arms round me.

I was a bit taken aback by this until she explained, she said, “You will not remember me but I remember you, you looked after me while I was suffering a miscarriage and you sat and held my hand and told me it would be OK.

"It was not OK at the time but just you being there really helped me and I will never forget the kindness you showed at the worst time in my life.”

I do remember the woman; I was so comforted to know that I helped her through a dark time in her life and to know that she felt supported through what was an awful night for her.

F Grade Sister - Oncology Ward

Promotion time again, this time to an F Grade sister in Oncology.

I have many treasured memories from what where to be the next three amazing years of my career.

There is a bit of a 3-year pattern going on here! I guess I just felt 3 years was enough time to almost master a specialty and had itchy feet, then was time to learn a new one.

I learned a lot of about death and dying in this area as unfortunately I worked on the palliative ward.

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Not everything about it was sad though. I learnt that sometimes death could be a most wonderful intimate experience to share with the patient and their families.

I gained some lovely friends from patients/families I had cared for and they let me in to the deepest darkest secrets of their world, entrusting me as though I was a part of their family.

I learnt to be a bit of a chameleon here, one night in particular I remember having three patients side by side in three cubicles, and all of them end of life.

Each family wanted different things from me that night.

Some were cheery, some sad and some angry about their loved one being taken from them too soon.

It could really take its toll on your mental health but we had good support in each other and an amazing boss that we could turn to.

I went to many a funeral as a mark of respect to the lovely people I met but also it helped me to deal with the closure of losing someone that had made such an impact on me in such a short period of their/my life.

I will never forget the time that a young woman was dying of malignant melanoma (skin cancer), she was so pale and never went into the sun but found herself dying of this awful disease.

She had some family troubles and never got on with her father and did not want him to be beneficiary of what little she owned so she asked me to get her a solicitor to sort a will out quickly before she died.

I remember the solicitor coming in and I held her hand to help her write her signature, as she was so weak.

A few days later she died but I knew she would be at peace as I had helped her carry out her last wishes, such a sad story but real life happens and as a Nurse, you have to learn to adapt quickly to each individuals circumstances.

Band 7 Neurosurgery Nurse Practitioner

Well what do you think happened next? You guessed it, promotion time!

This time I think I had a knock on the head as I took on a brand new role of a Band 7 Neurosurgery Nurse Practitioner.

I had only done Neurosurgery as a student. So to say it was daunting was an understatement.

I was up for the challenge though and found myself back at uni part time studying for a qualification in Autonomous Practice.

I worked on the ward and hob undertaking specialist roles that only Registrar level and above was trained to do.

I did come up against it with the “neuro Nurses” though. I remember one of the old school Nurses questioning why I thought I should have the job given that I had not worked in neuro since... Jesus was a child.

(The Nurse in question will not mind me telling this story as years later she actually said sorry she had taken this view.)

I simply replied that the last time I checked a patient was a patient that had a brain and heart the same as any other that I had Nursed for the past 13 years.

I think she was a bit gobsmacked by my response but I truly believe you can learn any specialty if you have the underlying skills and knowledge base to build upon.

In the end this Nurse did learn to trust me and came to me for all her needs, it was a good feeling to know I had proved my worth.

I also completed my Nurse prescribing and MSc in autonomous practice here.

The support I had from my mentor was phenomenal, a consultant who took the time to explain everything to me.

He had so much patience, I can never thank him enough for the knowledge and skill set I gained here.

However, after 7 years another opportunity came along!

Band 8a Matron

I was asked to take part in a 10 day challenge to re-set the hospital called ‘Perfect 10’.

The opportunity arose in the shape of a Matron post so if successful I would be a Band 8a Site Matron.

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Do you have any questions for Helen?

Ask Helen questions below

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We had 10 days to re-calibrate the systems in place in order to improve patient flow from the back door out the front door if you like.

It was a huge success and we had the chance to be interviewed – there was 10 posts and 12 applicants.

We were put through our paces in the interview and I can honestly say it was the worst one I had ever been to.

There were 10 very senior managers on the panel, one of these being the Chief Nurse.

During my interview, I was asked about a time when I felt out of my depth and what I did about it.

This was easy to answer as throughout my career I had so many of these scenarios – if anything could go wrong with me on shift it would do.

The security guards used to make a bit of a joke about it (‘Oh no troubles on’ they would say, ‘what’s going to happen now’!)

I had a number of eventualities on the list:

• fire evacuation as jacket potatoes in the canteen set on fire

• cherry picker trucks smashing through large glass windows

• lifts dropping with patients in

...to name but a few. The list went on so much so the panel said, OK I think that is enough for one day!

The job was mine and I am now into my 6th year in it.

Every shift is different there are no two that are the same.

We deal with some pretty harrowing things, things that you would never dream of having to do then get on with everyday life as though nothing had ever happened.

I don’t think the public would ever understand the dark sense of humour that Nurses have to have.

If we didn’t laugh sometimes we would cry…. And then sometimes we do cry.

Covid 19 Pandemic

Global pandemic hits!

At present, it is my job to support staff through a very challenging time. A time we never thought, we would see in this lifetime.

It is such a stressful time but the staff have risen to the occasion and are performing miracles on the adrenalin that runs through our veins.

It is nothing short of remarkable.

Despite social distancing, the staff have come closer together and are supporting each other in ways that I never thought possible.

The huge workload, the daily heartbreak and having to wear PPE for hours every day has taken its toll.

Despite that, the care and dedication levels among NHS staff has not wavered.

The magnitude of this pandemic is beyond anything we could have thought of.

Staff have of course struggled with it but that shows the passion and the fact they care.

Nurses care, this is what we do.

I will continue to do this as long as I can I will remain in the profession, the day I stop will have to be the day I hang up my boots and retire.

But until then…

About the author

  • Helen Ingleson
    Site Matron - NHS

I am currently working as a Site Matron, 23 years post reg. My role is to ensure the smooth day to day running of 2 large hospital sites. I belong to a team of matrons that cover 24/7, monitoring patient flow, capacity planning, ensuring patient site/safety and ensuring nurse staffing levels are safe. To name but a few things. We are contactable by bleep/phone and always available to give staff advice or support.

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  • Helen Ingleson
    Site Matron - NHS

About the author

  • Helen Ingleson
    Site Matron - NHS

I am currently working as a Site Matron, 23 years post reg. My role is to ensure the smooth day to day running of 2 large hospital sites. I belong to a team of matrons that cover 24/7, monitoring patient flow, capacity planning, ensuring patient site/safety and ensuring nurse staffing levels are safe. To name but a few things. We are contactable by bleep/phone and always available to give staff advice or support.

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    • Gianina Avasiloaie 14 days ago
      Gianina Avasiloaie
    • Gianina Avasiloaie
      14 days ago

      hi, Helen. I know you are busy, but is there any chance to ask you some questions in private? Phone ... read more

      • This is so inspirational. Thanks for sharing and continue you good work. My question is this, how can one upgrade from diploma to a degree as an overseas trained nurse living in the UK?

        Replied by: Rita Ogunjoku