Connecting, learning and reflecting through COVID-19: Lauren Campbell-Withers

Lauren Campbell-Withers

Lauren Campbell-Withers is a Staff Nurse at Whiteabbey Hospital.

She has struggled at times during 2020, and felt overwhelmed through the course of the pandemic.

In this week’s Northern Nightingale Blog, Lauren reflects on the support she received from her Nightingale colleagues and the comradery amongst them – and the leadership and networking skills she has developed throughout the COVID-19 escalation and surge.

My name is Lauren Campbell-Withers and I am a staff nurse in Ward 2 Whiteabbey Hospital, in the Northern Trust. Growing up, I originally wanted to be a midwife. At the time of leaving school, I had a friend whose father was a consultant pediatrician and he advised me that I would be looking after ‘mother and child’ and that I should therefore, pursue nursing first, get a few years’ experience in adult nursing and then go into midwifery.

I have been in this current post for six years now. It is an Orthopaedic/Stroke Rehabilitation ward. I am a senior nurse on the ward and my role is to provide person centered patient care, promote independence and act as an advocate for those going through the rehabilitation process. I was delighted to be given a place on the infection control link nurse program, an area which has interested me. I always try to be a team player, supportive to all my colleagues and also student nurses on the ward.

The Nightingale Challenge was brought to my attention by the ward sister after our Trust’s Nursing Innovation and Practice Development Team had put out a call for nominations. I met the criteria and with a nomination and encouragement from my manager, I applied. After reading about it I genuinely thought the programme would be something new, fresh and exciting that I would find beneficial as a young nurse in my professional practice and also on a personal level, so I was delighted to be told that I had been given a place as a Northern Nightingale! However, I was also nervous and anxious about meeting new people, especially the idea of engaging with senior leaders from across the region, but this also highlighted that I really needed to push myself out of my comfort zone and build my confidence levels up.

Engaging with senior leaders

The Northern Trust Nightingale Challenge got off to an exciting start and I got to engage with leaders from the offset at the Launch events, including the Chief Executive of our Trust. All my worries about meeting new people and the ‘big bosses’ were soon diminished. The Northern Nightingales are the loveliest group of nurses and midwives, they are all people like me who want to develop their leadership skills and improve practices in our areas. At the Northern Trust Nightingale Challenge Induction day, we had a fun, creative introductory session and got to explore the Learning Portfolio that we would be completing throughout the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. I got to meet our Health Minister Robin Swann and sit round the table with our Director of Nursing at the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council conference. I soon learnt that there was nothing to be worried about; these health care leaders were welcoming, supportive and genuinely interested in what I had to say about my experience as a nurse in Northern Ireland. The Collective Leadership Workshop was brilliant and we were introduced to the different styles of leadership and got to think about what type of leader we want to be. We were tasked with setting learning goals for the year ahead and to identify the leadership style that you aspire to. The goals I made were to be more assertive and gain confidence when interacting. I have observed many types of leadership styles but the one that sticks out for me is compassionate leadership and this is the style that I mostly aspire to. I love being present at the patient’s bedside, developing and applying my leadership skills from a clinical perspective, working closely with my colleagues and being a mentor and role model to nursing students. I would not ask any of my colleagues to do something that I would not do myself and take opportunities to teach and share knowledge when it is required.

Unprecedented times

Of course, 2020 did not turn out like we planned. And we all found ourselves working in the health care profession during one of the most unprecedented times. When lockdown first happened, I was just so upset that I couldn’t see my friends and family. I’m a social creature with a bubbly personality, so this really had an impact on me. I also felt, and still feel scared at times, that I could possibly be taking this virus back home to my husband and young daughter. Stripping off clothes at the back door after finishing a shift, and not wanting to touch anything and denying my family of affection until after I’ve had a shower is so strange. Childcare has also been a big issue as my parents were shielding meaning no help with child care. My husband also works for the NHS. My husband’s manager and my manager allowed for us to work opposite shifts meaning that one of us would always be home to care for our child. For this I will be forever grateful and it helped me cope better with the difficult situation we were in.

During the initial stages of the COVID 19 pandemic, Ward 2 and Ward 3 in Whiteabbey Hospital were amalgamated into one ward which has very recently been transformed to a GP led service. This has meant new staff to work with, a different patient profile with more complex needs to look after and greater professional responsibility, as at times there will be no immediate medical cover. As a result of the amalgamation of the two wards I have been introduced to and made new connections with members of the multidisciplinary team. Engaging with them and shared learning has enabled me to meet the clinical and rehabilitation needs of the new patient profile and has given me a better understanding of their condition. I have also had the opportunity to engage with the director of nursing, divisional nurse teams and even chatted with the Minister for Health again. So although I initially thought my goals as a Northern Nightingale and aspiring leader would be put on hold for the year, I have actually been able to use the challenges Covid has brought and what we have been faced with to grow and develop and I feel the goals I made to be more assertive and gain confidence have been met.

Of course, due to the pandemic the Nightingale Challenge was temporarily paused then reignited and we still have events to attend, albeit in a virtual sense, and I’ve been really enjoying staying connected and learning from engagement. I cannot imagine not being a nurse but, within the past year I have struggled at times and found dark moments of feeling overwhelmed, scared and wanting to quit nursing to pursue a different career. However, it was the comradery of the other nightingales that help me through these moments. It made me see that we can all feel this way, that other nurses and midwives have had times when they were struggling and feeling overwhelmed too but that support is always out there. The programme has highlighted that developing as a nurse doesn’t stop after you graduate – there are so many opportunities within a career in nursing and to take these when they come along.

I cannot imagine myself in any other job role. I am very proud to be part of the nursing profession, of the knowledge and skills that we as nurses have worked hard to develop and how we genuinely care for those we look after. I love going home from work knowing that I have tried to make a difference in someone’s life that day, and that I have done everything for my patients that I possibly could.

Lauren Campbell-Withers, Staff Nurse, Ward 2 Whiteabbey Hospital

Lauren is one of the Northern Trust nurses and midwives taking part in the Nightingale Challenge launched by Nursing Now – a programme of the Burdett Trust for Nursing to improve health globally in collaboration with the International Council of Nursing and the World Health Organisation.  The campaign encourages healthcare employers to support at least 20 nurses and midwives to develop their leadership skills during the 2020 International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

@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
Christine Beare, Staff Nurse, Neonatal, Antrim Area Hospital
Laura Smith, Midwife, Causeway Hospital, Coleraine
Mandy Young, Deputy Sister, Laurel House Chemotherapy Unit, Antrim
Nerell Browne, Practice Development Nurse, REaCH Team, Northern Trust
Chantelle Crowe, Deputy Ward Manager, Causeway Hospital
Michelle Angelone, Community Learning Disability Nurse
Catherine Middleton, Rehabilitation in Mental Health, Holywell Hospital

Northern Nightingales

2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife logo

24th September 2020

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