"I work with the most talented and committed staff who everyday seek ways in which to deliver care and kindness."
Emma Wadey, Nurse Program Director Suicide Prevention/Older People’s Services.
Her nursing career has already spanned more than two decades and seen her recognised at Buckingham Palace for her outstanding contribution to developing mental health nursing care in prisons - but 2018 could be one of Emma Wadey’s biggest years yet.
Emma has just been awarded a prestigious scholarship from the Florence Nightingale Foundation – something awarded to individuals to advance the study of nursing and to promote excellence in practice.
Here’s Emma’s story:
When did you join the NHS?
I joined the NHS as a Student Nurse in 1996, qualifying in 1999 as a Community Psychiatric Nurse for Crawley Community Mental Health team – the days when only the person on call had a team mobile and a briefcase!
Why did you join the NHS?
I opted to do my nurse training after a stint as a nursing assistant in a care home for what was then called ‘the elderly and mentally infirm’.
I was on a gap year from university due to becoming a mum. It was very hard work but I loved caring for the residents, supporting their families and I felt very privileged to be part of making their final days peaceful, pain free and dignified.
I was encouraged to apply for nurse training. I initially wanted to be an A&E nurse- having watched far too many episodes of casualty on TV! However, my first placement was on an inpatient mental health ward. I was inspired by my mentor, fascinated by the patient stories and committed to working alongside them to support their recovery. I especially liked the opportunity to build meaningful therapeutic relationships.
What does your current role involve?
I am currently lucky to have two roles, one within Sussex Partnership and the other within NHS Improvement. Both roles allow me to draw on my clinical, operational and academic knowledge and skills to support and sustain quality and safety improvements to mental health care.
Within Sussex I am leading work on our Suicide Prevention Strategy - we are aspiring to work together in partnership with other organisations and our communities to create a place where people do not die by suicide. I will also be joint chair for the Sussex and East Surrey Sustainable Transformation Partnership’s Suicide Prevention work, which seeks to promote and ensure a consistent approach to supporting those at risk of suicide across our wider NHS area.
At NHS Improvement I am supporting the Ambulance Improvement program, leading on developing a leadership development framework and bespoke leadership programs for staff.
Tell us about some of your previous roles?
I spent many years working in prisons. I was a mental health nurse in Broadmoor Hospital for 5 years. Broadmoor is a high-security psychiatric hospital for people who have been through the criminal justice system. My work within prisons involved setting up new services for prisoners– including establishing a day hospital. I was hugely proud to win the Butler Trust Award – the first non-prison employee to win it – and go to Buckingham Palace to receive my award from Princess Anne. Within Broadmoor my work focused on developing the unique role of forensic nursing and developing educational courses and training in maintaining therapeutic boundaries and supporting patients who were self-harm and or are suicidal using a recovery based framework for intervention.
I’ve also been involved in providing training for the Immigration and Prison Service around suicide prevention.
What do you most love about your job?
The best part of my job has always been the privilege of working with the most vulnerable and seeing them recover and thrive. I work with the most talented and committed staff who everyday seek ways in which to deliver care and kindness.
I know I have been hugely lucky to have worked in so many different roles but throughout them all I have maintained clinical practice – I’ve kept seeing patients.
That’s so important to me because the thing I love most about my job – whatever role I might be working in – is being able to spend time with people and help them get better.
What do you think makes the NHS so special?
The key asset of the NHS are its staff who all value doing the best for patients and their families of all of the time whatever the circumstances.
What do you think the next 70 years hold for the NHS and research generally?
The next 70 years will be incredibly challenging for the NHS, rising demand, acuity and diminishing resource, will mean that staff will continue to be stretched. However, there are also opportunities, research and technology will continue to evolve and provide advancements in clinical treatments, closer alignment and integrated care systems will be able to offer truly patient centred services and as long as the NHS stays true to its core value of free care to all, staff will remain committed to care and do their absolute best.