Celebrating the work of nurses in Veteran Aware Trusts on International Nurses Day

Focusing on a “brighter” future of nursing and how the profession can help improve global health for all is at the centre of this year’s International Nurses Day (today 12 May).

International Nurses Day is celebrated annually around the world on 12 May – the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale – and is led by the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

Every year there is a different theme and for 2023 it is: “Our Nurses. Our Future.”

ICN President, Dr Pamela Cipriano said: “Together our future depends on every nurse, every voice, to not only be on the front lines of care, but also be on the front lines of change.”

The VCHA applauds the work of nurses; indeed many Armed Forces leads are nurses. The blogs below are from two of these inspirational healthcare professionals.

Debra Ritsperis – Armed Forces Lead and Lead Nurse for Improvements and Delivery at Gloucester Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The photo shows Debra Ritsperis

On International Nurses Day, I’m delighted to outline the work of nurses in terms of being Veteran Aware at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

We are one of 17 hospitals supporting the Westminster Centre for Research in Veterans to identify the acute care needs of our Veteran population.

This two-year research study will help care services to understand and respond to the needs of the veteran population. Our team of two Veterans’ advocates funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund collect demographic and operational service data from our Veteran inpatients, which is anonymised by the Defence Welfare Service and analysed by Chester University.

We are also celebrating our reaccreditation as a Veterans Aware hospital and we promote the Armed Forces Covenant.

With our Armed Forces Lead, advocates and champions we identify our Veteran and Armed Forces Community status patients to ensure they receive appropriate care and have prioritised care for patients who have Armed Forces-attributable illnesses, and for those who are eligible for referral to specialist services such as Op Courage the NHS veterans mental health and well-being service and the Veterans Trauma Network, which is the NHS service that provides specialist care and treatment to Veterans who have physical health problems as a result of their time in the armed forces. The Veterans’ Hubs in Gloucester and Stroud support social prescribing.

We offer clinical placements to serving Armed Forces clinicians in critical care and emergency care to enable them to maintain and achieve clinical competency between Armed Forces operations. We encourage recruitment from Armed Forces service levers and Veterans and our recruitment processes identify and offer interviews to all those who are eligible.

Armed Forces leads and advocates support the transition into the NHS by facilitating informal visits and work experience for those interested in clinical as well as administrative, procurement, logistics, operational and human resources opportunities in the NHS. The Trust has achieved gold accreditation for the Employer Recognition Scheme and supports those Reserve Armed Forces personnel as an employer in local Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force Reserve Service units.

The Trust enjoys the annual NHS military challenge joining with Bristol Field Hospital for a weekend of leadership and teamwork activities and command tasks in the field each June. The Trust supports Armed Forces Day and Remembrance Day and makes sure they are celebrated within the Trust and acknowledges all of our Veteran patients with a thank you.

Maggie Durrant RRC, Lt Col (Retd), programme manager vaccination service & Armed Forces Covenant Lead for Shropshire Community NHS Trust.

As a newly qualified nurse back in 1983, I never dreamed I’d be shaking hands and chatting with royalty! So truly very proud and feeling privileged to be presented with the Royal Red Cross (RRC) by Prince William at Windsor Castle earlier this year for ‘exceptional devotion and competence in the performance of military nursing duties over a continuous and long period’ (c. 36 ½ years)., having been recognised in our Late Queens Birthday Honours list June 2022.

My military nursing service (as a Reservist) included operational tours of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sierra Leone, and culminated in 3 ½ years as Commanding Officer of a unit – ‘Medical Operational Support Group’, simultaneously with a full career in the NHS.

Now a Veteran, I’ve willingly accepted the role of Armed Forces Covenant programme lead for the Trust. My intention is to raise awareness about the needs of Armed Forces personnel and veterans, families, and carers.

With support from as many colleagues as possible, and utilising both my NHS and military nursing experience, intent is to further develop our understanding of the Armed Forces culture and in particular the needs of veterans, to help inform service improvements for all our patients.

Nurses’ Day – Veteran Aware

This International Nurses’ Day, Rebecca Warren (right in the photo above) is sharing her experiences of being an NHS nurse, but also a nurse as part of 202 Field Hospital.

Rebecca is the Trust’s Enhanced Recovery Team Lead, and has over 20 years nursing experience, primarily in spinal injuries.

She said: “My role as Enhanced Recovery Team Lead means I am regularly visible to patients who have had arthroplasty surgery, and ensure I am understanding of their needs.

“I’m also there to support members of staff for if they have any concerns or need advice about a patient.”

Enhanced recovery is evidence-based approach to patient care, ensuring their health is optimised prior to surgery, implementing improved pain management during their hospital stay and, therefore, resulting in patients returning to independent living as soon as possible after surgery.

Rebecca added: “As an Army nurse, and part of the Reserves, as well as working in the NHS, I’ve found these roles have complemented each other over the years, providing me with transferable skills, knowledge and experiences.

“During my time in the Army, the most important things I learnt have been teamwork and how to effectively nurse under immense pressure.”

RJAH is a Veteran Aware hospital – having been reaccredited with Veteran Aware status in March 2023.

She said: “We are working closely with our Board of Directors and Council of Governors around being a Veteran Aware Trust, who have agreed that every member of staff is to have Veteran Aware training going forward. I’m now linking in with the Learning and Development Team to create a training programme.”

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