Connecting, learning and reflecting through COVID-19 – Christine Beare

“I look back and examine processes, reflect on positives and focus on learning identified.”

Christine Beare is a Staff Nurse in the Neonatal Unit at Antrim Area Hospital who is taking part in the Nightingale Challenge, which aims to develop the leadership skills of young nurses and midwives during the 2020 International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

In the eight of the series of Northern Trust Nightingale Blogs, Christine describes the challenges of working in Neonatal care, her role as a leader and the changes and challenges faced by nurses and midwives on a professional and personal scale.

Christine Beare, Staff Nurse, Neonatal Unit, Antrim Area Hospital
Christine Beare, Staff Nurse, Neonatal Unit

‘Channelling the spirit of Florence Nightingale’

Neonatal nursing is a specialty of nursing care for sick or premature babies. I completed my adult training and started my career in stroke rehab care, but I always had an interest in neonates and it was a fantastic moment for me when the opportunity came that meant I could progress my career in this area. Every day can be very different and with many challenges. Neonates can present with a variety of problems that demands highly skilled, dedicated care and the emotional ability to deliver this care in a whole family unit approach.

I have now been working in the Neonatal Unit in Antrim Area Hospital for almost 12 years. During this time I have developed professionally, engaging in various courses at Queens University Belfast and the University of Manchester, to enhance my skills.

I was encouraged to take part on the Northern Nightingale Challenge Programme, as part of professional succession planning and enhancement of my leadership skills. I take charge of the Unit on occasions, and I am involved in the bereavement group which supports families who suffer the loss of a child in the Northern Trust. I felt privileged to be nominated for the Programme.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to a pause in the programme temporarily, but soon was back on course via zoom meetings and virtual connection. The Trust team that lead the Northern Nightingale Programme have ensured we have stayed connected and supported and are great role models as nursing leaders. Channelling the spirit of Florence Nightingale, we were all keen to keep the momentum going! It has been great being able to connect with health care leaders and also my fellow Northern Nightingales who come from varied disciplines in nursing and midwifery. We have so much to learn from each other. I had the pleasure of meeting our previous Chief Executive, Dr Tony Stevens and our new Chief Executive, Jennifer Welsh, at the Nightingale Challenge launch at the start of 2020. I have had the opportunity to meet and engage with our Director of Nursing, Eileen McEneaney, several times. They have imparted knowledge and advice as we engage in this process, which has been inspirational and challenged my thought processes.

‘Reflector and analyst’

Throughout the Northern Nightingale Challenge Programme I have developed relationships with our Lead Nurse, my mentor, as well as our Paediatric Head of Service, Grace Edge. I had the privilege of demonstrating my leadership skills to senior nursing staff by being given the opportunity to facilitate the programme of events at the Trust’s Annual Snowdrop Walk at Shane’s Castle in Antrim. The Annual Snowdrop Walk is a special event in which parents, relatives and friends from the Northern Trust area who have experienced a pregnancy loss or the death of a child are invited to take part in a walk of remembrance and have the opportunity to plant a snowdrop bulb in Antrim’s Castle Gardens in memory of their loved one.

As a leader, I feel I am a reflector and analyst. Reflection is such an important tool in nursing that I really value. I look back and examine processes, reflect on positives and focus on learning identified. I find that coaching is also a leadership skill I possess, highlighted by the covid-19 pandemic. Thankfully the Neonatal Unit had no positive cases of coronavirus. For us, this time was ‘business as usual’. We were consistently busy in this period caring for sick term and preterm infants and as a result we had staff redeployed from other areas. I was also a practice supervisor and assessor for students who were on placement during the pandemic. I worked along with both groups of staff; coaching, encouraging and supporting them in upskilling to assist us in the Neonatal Unit.

A major change at this time was parental involvement. We pride ourselves in advocating parents as partners in care, and encourage family integrated care – promoting the development of loving and caring relationships, and most importantly, being mindful of the infants neurodevelopment. Due to the pandemic, only one parent was allowed to be present in the unit at a time. More than ever building and maintaining trust with parents’ was fundamental during this emotional and uncertain time. Ordinarily siblings and grandparents are encouraged to be present on the unit, to spend time together as a family. While both parents are now welcome on the unit together to care for their baby and support each other, unfortunately siblings and grandparents are still not permitted. We hope this will soon change but are ever aware of our role in promoting high infection prevention and control interventions and minimise risk for everyone.

‘Empowered and energised’

The old motto of “keep calm and carry on” seemed very applicable at the height of the crisis but Covid brought about many changes and challenges for all of us as nurses and midwives on a professional and personal scale. During the pandemic I found my faith as my most important strategy mode and it really saw me through a lot. I’m usually very involved in youth work so it has been strange adapting to the ‘new normal’ of worshiping online, but it’s still a great way to have fellowship and connect with people. I’m thankful for the technology we have that allows us to continue many things, including the Nightingale Challenge Programme. We recently took part in a virtual Question and Answer session with our Director of Nursing, Eileen McEneaney, called ‘Learning form Leadership’. It was a great opportunity to hear about the challenges we faced as a Trust and the innovative strategies implemented during the pandemic. I also felt really proud when she spoke of the bravery and courage we all showed during this shared journey. It was a valuable session that made me feel empowered and energised afterwards. It was also a great opportunity to talk about self-care and how we all need to look after each other and ourselves. It came at a perfect time as I’m now about to start some much needed annual leave, to rest and recharge, ready to face the next challenge head on!

Christine Beare, Staff Nurse, Neonatal Unit, Antrim Area Hospital

@nhsctrust #NorthernNightingales
@NursingNow2020 #NursingNowNI #NightingaleChallenge
#InternationalYearoftheNurseandMidwife

Other Northern Trust Nightingale Blogs

Gemma McClean, Hospital Diversion Nursing Sister
Judith Shevlin, Community Mental Health Nurse
Denise O’Donnell, Acting Ward Manager, Covid-19 assessment ward

Eleni McCrea, Community Midwife, Whiteabbey Hospital
Stacey Barclay, Midwife, C2, Antrim Area Hospital
Vanessa Best, Community Mental Health Nurse, Oakview House
Kirsty Wallace, Staff Nurse, Antrim Area Hospital

Northern Nightingales

2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife logo

6th August 2020

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