Connecting, learning and reflecting through COVID-19 – Brinin Anderson

Brinin Anderson, Staff Nurse

Brinin Anderson is a Staff Nurse in an acute surgical ward at Antrim Area Hospital.  She was deployed to the Intensive Care Unit in Antrim during the first surge of COVID-19, caring for others during the pandemic whilst worrying about the unknown for herself and her family.  She found it a very humbling experience.

In our series of Nightingale Blogs, Brinin tells us about her experiences.  She also tells us about her learning and insight into leadership styles as well as the important role nurses have in advocating for patients.  In the year which was declared the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Brinin finds it ironic that collectively they have been presented with the challenge of a global pandemic in the same year.

Since a young age I have been involved in caring for a family member, something that I found I enjoyed and provided me with satisfaction and fulfilment; this in turn influenced my career choice towards nursing.

I qualified as a Registered nurse only two years ago.  I have spent these two years learning and developing my skills in an acute surgical ward.  This is an extremely busy area of practice and it has provided many challenges to me as a newly qualified nurse.  A surgical ward is fast paced and things often change quickly, therefore as a registrant, I have had to be flexible and adapt to manage this.

In my ward we manage the care of patients from diagnosis, through a surgical procedure and during recovery.  I find it very rewarding to witness the transition from a vulnerable time in someone’s life, where they have lost a lot of their independence, through recovery, to a stronger, healthier version of themselves.  Part of our role in the surgical division also involves end of life care.  We are often with patients when they receive a palliative prognosis.  I believe that one of the most important attributes of a nurse is to be able to advocate for patients to ensure their voice is heard and they receive the best care possible.  To be able to care for patients, and be there for their family members throughout this tough time, is a very humbling experience.

I was delighted to be nominated for the Northern Nightingale Programme by my Ward Manager.  I was also grateful to have successfully received a place on the programme, given that I am the most recently qualified member of staff in the group.  When I began the Northern Nightingale Challenge, I wanted to gain a greater understanding of leadership.  The year 2020 was declared the year of the nurse and midwife; it’s really quite ironic that collectively we were presented with the challenge of a global pandemic during this year.  The role of the Nurse and Midwife became a global focus, and the amazing work that we carry out on a daily basis, whilst understaffed and over stretched in very difficult times, was recognised.

Personal and professional impact

From commencing the Northern Nightingale Programme, I have gained insight into different leadership styles.  I attended a collective leadership workshop and from this I realised that leadership is the responsibility of everyone.  I believe that one of the most important attributes of a leader is honesty.  I was deployed to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) during the first surge of the pandemic.  I found during this time that I valued honesty greatly, no matter what was going on, I found I could deal with it better when I had all the information.  However, I also appreciated the importance of a more direct leadership style in these uncertain times.  I believe that in complex times sometimes a direct leadership style is effective.  Nevertheless, decisions should be made collectively when it is feasible, so that everyone is aware, allowing a positive outcome to be achieved.

The Nightingale Programme has impacted me dramatically.  It has given me the opportunity to engage with colleagues from many different areas, including senior managers, and discuss issues we all face together, despite having differing roles.  It has facilitated me in building confidence, enabling me to work more closely within the multidisciplinary team.  This opportunity to develop my leadership skills and build a network of colleagues so early in my career will benefit me as I progress in nursing.  I was fortunate to be asked to be a panellist in a Schwartz round.  Schwartz Rounds provide a structured forum where all staff, clinical and non-clinical, come together regularly to discuss the emotional and social aspects of working in healthcare.  It was a great opportunity to discuss the barriers nurses have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. It helped us to look more closely at the emotional and physiological impacts we faced throughout the pandemic which I found highly beneficial.

Like many others, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on me both personally and professionally. During my deployment to ICU, I was extremely anxious.  In order to protect my loved ones, while working in ICU, I had to move out of my family home and live alone.  Not only were nurses caring for others during the pandemic, we were continuing to do this while worrying about the unknown for ourselves and our families.  The most challenging barrier throughout my deployment was the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), it made an already very difficult and distressing work setting even more physically and mentally demanding. No one could have prepared us for it and the additional barriers it created.  It made communication very difficult both among team members and also with families. As relatives were unable to be present at the beside, it was difficult to get to know our patients; relatives often share  personal information and stories about their loved ones which enables us in delivering person centred care.  During my time in ICU I found the window visits particularly difficult, where family members could have a presence but through the physical barrier of a window.  As nurses, we pride ourselves in being empathetic, whilst providing emotional support to patients and relatives alike. The physical barrier which the PPE created meant that we were unable to provide non-verbal communication such as a smile or a hand touch.  These simple acts of caring and kindness are intrinsic to the nursing roles, we do them without thinking and not being able to do this was difficult for me.

Someone once told me that the true path to self-fulfilment is to do one thing every day that scares you.  In that case, I must be extremely fulfilled right now!

This has been a difficult and challenging time.  However, I certainly feel like I rose to the challenge and have achieved goals over the past few months that I didn’t know I had. I feel that in surviving this so early in my career, I have developed resilience that I will carry forward with me and I will stay positive and meet future challenges head on.

Brinin Anderson, Staff Nurse, C5, Surgical Division, Antrim Area Hospital

Brinin is one of 27 Northern Trust nurses 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 Nightingale Challenge 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

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
Lauren Campbell-Withers, Staff Nurse, Whiteabbey Hospital
Lindsay McNinch, A4, Respiratory Medicine, Antrim Area Hospital
Rebecca Leckie, Staff Nurse, Ward A3 Respiratory, Antrim Area Hospital
Bronagh Smiley, District Nursing Sister, Ballymena
Ashleigh Pullins, District Nursing Sister, Larne Integrated Care Team

Northern Nightingales

2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife logo

30th October 2020

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