Hi my name is Anita and I’m a Quality Improvement Specialist here at the Academy but my background is in nursing. As an adult nurse for more than 23 years, I worked predominately on the Acute Medical unit as a sister and later on as the practice educator supporting staff with clinical skills, before going into full time education with the corporate team.
I’m sure some people might think this change in career is quite unusual, but for me it felt like a natural progression, as I’d been “doing” Quality Improvement (QI) for years within my nursing roles without even realising it. And that’s the thing about QI; so many people (nurses especially), are making changes to improve the experiences of patients and the care that they receive without being aware that this is what Quality Improvement is all about.
Sometimes, it's the smallest of changes that have the biggest impact. For example, on one particular unit I worked on we would write the names of our patients on a board but it wasn’t obvious who was admitted when, making it difficult to easily identify who had been on the unit the longest. So, I came up with the idea of using a different colour pen for each day of the week. This instantly saved time and enabled the nurse in charge to see who had been there the longest and who was a priority to go to the ward.
Over time, I started to support colleagues to implement change, ensuring that they were able to measure the impact, and slowly, this developed into helping them deliver more formal QI projects. On one occasion I supported colleagues with the introduction of coloured patient cups as a way of promoting fluid intake, and on another, I help introduce the mouth care magnet which aimed to support patients to maintain their oral hygiene. During my time working in the COVID vaccination hub, I found myself using QI methods every day to make the experience of people coming to have their jabs better, as well as improve service safety.
Now that I work in a non-clinical role, I’ve had people say to me that I’m “not a a real nurse” as I don’t look after patients, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Working in the Academy’s QI team means that I directly support colleagues, patients and members of our community with improvement ideas, which ultimately make the care we deliver and experience of patients better.
I really enjoy supporting individuals as they focus on what they are trying to achieve through change, and what evidence they have to support these ideas, as well as how they are going to measure outcomes and impact. In particular, it has been inspiring to see participants on our QI Programme flourish and gain confidence that have as much impact personally as they do on the service we provide. These skills are for life and can be transferred to all areas of healthcare and professional development, as you cab see from my career.
I think Quality Improvement is often seen as another “thing” that we should just do because we feel we have to, and for nurses who already have an overloaded work schedule, this can be intimidating and overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be. Taking better care of patients can come from the smallest changes, so when the QI opportunity comes knocking, don’t be afraid to accept it, grab it, embrace it and learn from it, you never know where it will lead you.