In Conversation With...children's asthma nurse Laura King
We know there are lots of very interesting people in our Trust, whether through your work, your interests or your hobbies outside work. We want to get to know you and share your story.
During #AskAboutAsthma week, we spoke to Laura King, who joined our Trust three months ago as a children’s asthma clinical nurse specialist. She’s working with teams across our Trust to improve asthma care for our young patients.
#AskAboutAsthma is a campaign run by the Healthy London Partnership and NHS England to improve the lives of children and young people living with asthma. We’ve recently welcomed two new clinical nurse specialists (CNS) for children’s asthma to our Trust, Laura and colleague Rachael Young.
Lives: In Leigh-on-sea with husband Sam, injuries and emergencies research nurse at our Trust, and their 21-month-old son Harry.
And: Laura and Sam were childhood sweethearts, meeting through friends at the tender age of 16!
What did you get up to during #AskAboutAsthma week?
As my colleague Rachael Young, our other CNS for children’s asthma, and I are new to these posts, it’s a great chance for us to share what we’re doing with our colleagues.
In preparation for #AskAboutAsthma, we did some drop-in teaching sessions, as it’s a time when admissions for asthma spike each year. And we held information stalls at our hospitals during the week.
As part of the campaign we also asked colleagues who work with children with asthma to share their ‘one thing’ which is what they’d like to see change, or is really important, in asthma care. People have been great at getting involved and we shared these on social media during the week. It’s been really exciting to see everyone's ideas about how they can help.
We also went to a pan-London study day. We’ve got a really good asthma network in north east London so it’s great to share ideas and learning with like-minded colleagues.
We haven’t previously had clinical nurse specialists for asthma in our Trust, tell us a bit more about these new roles
The Trust realised we needed a specialist service for children with asthma, to work with existing services. Asthma is one of the most common reasons children are admitted to hospital and it can be challenging to keep it under control.
We’re here to help provide better care to children with asthma. A big part of that will be in the community, as well as in our hospitals. Our ultimate aim is to help children and young people manage their own asthma, and not need us anymore!
So our long-term plans involve more preventative work in the community to help stop children from getting so poorly that they need to come to hospital.
We’re also making asthma care consistent across our hospitals. As she was previously sister on Tropical Lagoon ward, Rachael knows everyone. This helps when we’re working closely with our children's and emergency department teams, who have been great. Now all children are going home with an asthma plan, which is brilliant.
Asthma plans set out what you need to if you’re feeling unwell or having an attack, and remind you to keep taking your medication. They’re really useful for patients and their parents and having one means you’re four times less likely to have an attack.
We’re starting with the basics and in some cases making really simple changes – like ensuring all children have the right spacer, which makes their medicine more effective. And we’re getting a third children’s asthma CNS in October which will make a big difference
Tell us more about your career
I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. My mum trained nursery nurses, and always worked in childcare. My dad is a pharmacist, so maybe I'm a bit of a mix of the two!
I trained in Southampton. Having been an army cadet, I did think about being an army nurse, but I’ve always really wanted to work with children.
After I qualified I worked in paediatric orthopaedics and then paediatric assessment at Southampton General Hospital. I remember people saying it would feel different when I was no longer a student nurse. They were right, it was a whole different ballgame, realising I was responsible for all of these children (even with support)!
I was really proud when I got my first sister post in paediatric A&E at Basildon Hospital.
My first experience as an asthma nurse was at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital – I applied as I was interested in asthma, I never thought I’d get the job! There was an amazing CNS there who I learned a lot from.
Before coming to our Trust I worked in the community as part of the Children and Young People’s Health Partnership where we were piloting a new care model, to bring services closer to home. We also worked closely with the mental health and I really miss that as I learned so much.
I ended up at our Trust after meeting Lynda (Hassell, our director of nursing for children and young people), as last year’s #AskAboutAsthma event. She was a presenter and said she was putting together a business case for children’s asthma nurses. I met her in the queue for the toilet and told her I was interested, especially as it was a bit more local for me! I saw the job advertised and went for it.
Why the interest in asthma?
Lots of the children I used to see in A&E either came in when they didn't really need to, or got so sick at home that by the time they came in, they were really poorly and needed a lot of help with their breathing.
Now I know that a good understanding of asthma is probably the most powerful tool we have to help stop this. We have a really busy A&E, so the work outside in the community is maybe even more important than what we’re doing in our hospitals.
Asthma is a really common condition. One in ten children have it, yet it hasn’t always been taken seriously and people are surprised to find out you can die from it. I find it frustrating that it isn’t seen equally with other long-term conditions such as diabetes.
What’s really fascinating is the variety: one minute I might be seeing a child who’s being diagnosed, the next it might be a child who we think has really brittle asthma (a rare form of severe asthma), but is actually not taking their medicine, or their inhaler technique means it isn't getting into their lungs very well. It’s a real mix which I enjoy.
What do you like getting up to outside work?
I find that I spend a lot of time running round after my son – he’s a hurricane! Our family loves to be outside, at the beach or walking in the woods. As busy working parents, time with our son is so precious. However, on those rare child-free evenings, we love live music.
Sam and I love skiing and snowboarding - we used to go every year before Harry came along. After we’d been working for a while we took a career break and lived in the French Alps for six months, skiing every day.
It was amazing, the chance of a lifetime. We can't wait to show Harry one day - we even call him our snow baby because it snowed the night I went into labour!
Visit the Asthma UK website to find out more about asthma.