To celebrate International Nurses Day on Sunday 12th May, we spoke to three of the talented, dedicated and courageous people making a difference at Marie Stopes UK.
Anna-Lee Nickells, Clinical Services Matron for the south west, Sarah Strutz, Clinical Team Leader at Marie Stopes UK Manchester and Karen Royle, Healthcare Assistant at Marie Stopes UK Manchester talk through what led them to nursing, abortion care and what they would say to anyone considering entering the profession.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
Sarah: From my first day as a nurse I knew this was what I wanted to do. When I qualified, I went into general theatre gynaecology, but I didn’t train all those years to stand talking to a surgeon. I wanted to be with my patients.
I then worked in a hospice, which taught me that everyone is different. You need to speak to some people in a very sensitive way, and with others you can have a bit of fun. It’s the same here at Marie Stopes UK. We have ladies coming in who expect the nurses to be horrible and judgmental, and when you have a giggle with them you can see them visibly relax. You know that no matter how bad of a day you’re having you are doing something to make their day better. They don’t mean to be in their situation, it’s our job to make their day as stress free as possible.
Karen: I wasn’t encouraged to study as a teenager and it was never highlighted as important to have a career or learn a skill. I had children very young and it became obvious to me that to give my children a better life I had to work hard. I got a job in a nursing home and have continued working in healthcare ever since. I love working with people and having an input in their lives.
What is the role of a nurse?
Anna: Being a nurse is about helping people and giving them the information they need to make the decisions that are right for them. We see women who are so anxious about what people will think of them that they don’t tell anyone what they are doing.
At Marie Stopes UK, the client always comes first and those values really struck a chord with me. This is somewhere I can really support people. It’s the same with the men we see. Vasectomy can be a tough decision for a man. They need to know they are doing it for the right reasons and have all the information they need to make the best decision for them.
Sarah: Nurses help put the clients at ease. It’s can be a daunting thing, especially with surgery, so I explain the procedure, ‘when you go in this is what you are going to see. This is the surgeon, they have worked for us for a long time.
I also look after our nurses in our smaller clinics. They work alone and have to do everything themselves, so I speak to them every day to make sure they are ok and feeling secure. If they are happy that comes across to the clients.
What led you to work in abortion care?
Sarah: I had worked in palliative care for several years and wanted a new challenge. Sexual health and abortion just seemed to click. It has everything: surgical and medical, different age groups, backgrounds, cultures and religious beliefs. It gave me a sense of progressing and learning. I still feel that now. I learn something new every single day.
Your role involves working closely with vulnerable women in difficult situations, how do you support them?
Sarah: It’s important to ask safeguarding questions in a conversational way. If it’s obvious you are just ticking boxes they won’t tell you anything, but when you ask women about their lives they open up a lot more. I make clear to ladies that everything they say is confidential unless we think they are at risk, but if anything does get highlighted that I need to escalate to social services, I will explain what I am going to do and why. If you are not honest you lose that trust straightaway.
Anna: We had a lady come in recently who had fled a violent relationship abroad. When she got to the UK she met someone who turned out to be just as bad and was threatening her. We safeguarded her and her family and put everything in place to make sure she was safe. That woman wouldn’t have received help if she hadn’t come to us and that’s all down to the team. It can be quite emotional. We sit down quite regularly if we have had had a difficult day to talk it through and check everyone is ok.
How are you affected by the anti-choice groups who gather outside abortion clinics?
Sarah: It can be hard sometimes. Everyone has the right to their own opinions but I don’t agree with how they communicate them. The people who come to us have come to a decision that’s often hard for them. The protesters don’t know the reasons they are there and their leaflets don’t present the true facts. But I try to deal with them with a professional courteous way.
What is your message to your colleagues?
Anna: If I had one message for my team, it would be, thank you. For always being willing to try and improve and be on this journey with me.
I am very lucky. My teams really want to learn and improve and the client feedback is amazing. One woman recently came back to the centre after her treatment with a thank you card and a box of biscuits. To make that effort is really special.
What would you say to a nurse considering working at Marie Stopes UK?
Sarah: I would definitely recommend it. We are going through so many exciting changes for the better and we are really looked after and supported. All the management want you to grow and develop.
Karen: My motivation really began when I came to work for Marie Stopes UK and saw how everything revolved around the client, their feelings and needs. It was like nothing I had ever experienced in healthcare before, how client-focused it was. Everyone cares. It is like a family. The values of Marie Stopes UK were instilled in me from my very first day.