Reflecting on a career in nursing and where it all began

After just over a year in the role of head of nursing at LloydsPharmacy Clinical Homecare, Sarah Rickels reflects on her career and the difference between home and hospital nursing. Just in time for Nurses’ Day, Sarah also shares her reason for joining the profession.

It’s quite common for healthcare professionals to be able to pinpoint the moment they knew they wanted a career in this industry. It’s not the job you take if you’re motivated by money or being able to retire early – it’s driven by something deeper.

For me, it was between the ages of 10 and 17 that had the biggest influence. My father was diagnosed with a brain tumour when I was young and sadly passed away before I turned 18. Throughout this time, I had regular direct contact with the world of healthcare – and I got to see first hand the impact that nurses can have on peoples’ lives. This was the main reason behind my decision to pursue a career helping others.

I have been lucky enough to meet so many amazing healthcare professionals over the years – people who were born to provide care. If you don’t get to see it up close every day, it can be easy to take professions like nursing for granted. That’s why events like International Nurses’ Day are so important. It gives us an opportunity to celebrate the work of nurses and the vital role they play in looking after those that need it most. It’s also nice for us to look back at our own journeys and remind ourselves why we do what we do.

For the first 3 years of my career I worked in Leeds at the General Infirmary on an acute respiratory ward, caring for patients with a whole host of respiratory diseases. It was here that I developed a keen interest in oncology, so after I got married and we moved to Cheshire, I had the opportunity to work at the Christie Hospital in Manchester, as a Chemotherapy Nurse. From that point, my career led me to various oncology related roles including specialist nurse roles before becoming Lead Cancer Nurse for an acute NHS Trust.

Up until this point, I had only ever worked in NHS hospital-based roles, but I was excited by the opportunity to move into the private sector and support the innovation and development of new models of care. In February 2018 I joined McKesson UK and have since been appointed head of nursing at LloydsPharmacy Clinical Homecare.

Homecare nursing is totally unique. We visit patients in their own home and can spend large periods of time with them, providing treatment which otherwise would have to been provided in a hospital. We are essentially guests in a patient’s home and this comes with significant challenges, but most importantly, huge personal rewards for our nurses who get to see the impact that they have in a patient’s overall life.

Our patients are able to remain directly involved in family life while receiving their treatment. It’s all about enabling them to live fuller lives and maintain their independence. For me this is the greatest impact that we can have on a patient and their family. When times are tough and we are facing day-to-day operational challenges, this is what I have to remember. At the end of everything, there’s a patient who needs the medication and care that we provide, so they can get on with their life.

I really believe that homecare and the development of innovative community-based nursing services has a key part to play in the future of healthcare in the UK. So, I’d like to end by wishing my fellow nurses a very Happy Nurses’ Day. It may only be one day, but you are so important, to so many people, every single day of the year.