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In Conversation With...our Lead Nurse for Critical Care, Ruth Dando

In Conversation With...our Lead Nurse for Critical Care, Ruth Dando

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.

As we’re relaunching Schwartz Rounds at our Trust, we spoke to our Lead Nurse for Critical Care, Ruth Dando. Ruth, who is on our Schwartz Round steering group, is passionate about the benefits of these rounds for healthcare colleagues. They’re a forum where members of staff can talk about the emotional aspects of their roles and share experiences. They are open to all our staff.

Age: 54

Lives: In Pebmarsh, a small village near Colchester, with her four cats. Ruth is also a mum of four, she has Rupert, 24, Francesca, 23, and 21-year-old twins Annabel (who has followed her into the NHS, working as a clinical support worker in a child and adolescent mental health unit) and Alexandra.

And:  Ruth originally wanted to be a policewoman but was too short – so the police force’s loss was the NHS’s gain!

Did you always want to be a nurse?

It was definitely not in my plan! I wanted to be a policewoman, but that was at the time they were height-ist and I was too short. However, I’ve loved my career in nursing so I’ve no regrets.

I fell into it after a conversation with a friend’s mum who was a nurse.

Tell us more about your career

I trained in Leicester and despite it not being my first choice career; I loved it straight away and have never looked back. It was fun, I made lots of friends, was doing a job I loved and there was a good social side too.

It was very old-fashioned. We lived in nurses’ quarters, had three months at the School of Nursing before we were let loose on the wards. It was very daunting at first. We were well looked after, however, it was very different to now and we just got on with it.

I moved to London once I qualified and started out at Guys Hospital on an acute medical ward. After a year I wanted to improve my skills and knowledge so was considering working in intensive care or the Emergency Department.

In the end I decided on ITU as you have more contact with patients and there’s more continuity. I loved it so much I’ve stayed in ITU ever since!

It’s a unique place to work as you’re looking after critically ill patients and never know what to expect. Things can change hugely during a single shift. There’s great teamwork and camaraderie as I think facing really challenging and stressful situations strengthens your bond, personally and professionally.

I’ve worked in other hospitals across London, including University College Hospital and took a career break after the twins were born to concentrate on being a mum.

After agency nursing for a while, I became senior sister at Broomfield on the burns intensive care unit. I loved it, however, it was challenging as there is a sad story behind every burns patient.

Then I was an ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) nurse at St Thomas’, where we would pick up really sick patients who couldn’t be oxygenated through conventional means. We would use an ECMO, a kind of lung bypass machine.

When I got a bit too old to be rushing round in an ambulance I worked in private healthcare at the Cromwell Hospital in Kensington.

During my time there I won a Florence Nightingale Foundation Scholarship and created my clinical ethics forum. I think it’s important to provide ethical support to patients, families and staff, as there is often conflict in decision making for patients which has an impact on medical staff.

I wanted to help clinicians to support patients and their families to make the right decision, while reducing moral distress for healthcare staff.

It was also at the Cromwell that I trained to be a Schwartz Round facilitator.

Can you tell us more about why these rounds are so important for our staff?

We live in a chaotic and busy world and we don’t do enough to take time out to reflect and share our feelings. As healthcare workers, we see so many things day-to-day which can have an impact on us.

We just get on with it; however, we do ourselves an injustice if we don’t process our feelings and emotions. Schwartz Rounds are an important forum to take time out and share experiences. You’ll usually find that something in a round will resonate with you and reconnect with why you work in healthcare.

Evidence shows that those who attend Schwartz Rounds on a regular basis have reduced stress and it helps promote more collaborative teamwork. You hear from other colleagues and it helps you to understand what challenges they face.

I’m really excited to be involved in the relaunch. It’s about staff wellbeing, creating a safe, non-judgemental, space to share our stories and feelings. They’re not about fixing problems, they’re about understanding how we feel and realising that you’re not alone.

What do you like to get up to outside work?

I like to catch up with my children, who are spread around the country. I’ve also been renovating my house over the last ten years. There are still two rooms I’ve not touched and now I’m redoing stuff from the beginning. I find it quite therapeutic and I like to try new things – I’m not an expert but I’ve changed a tap and fixed a leaky pipe!

And our favourite question of In Conversation With…do you have any pets?

I have four cats. They’re all rescues as I can’t bear for a cat to be without a home. Socks is eight and is in charge, she’s very sassy. Mildred was a stray, she’s quite elderly though we’re not sure exactly how old, then I’ve got Phoebe and Chandler, who were both from the same litter, they’re seven.

Cats are great as they’re independent, and now the children are not there to feed them, it’s down to me.