nursing at the heart of good rehab

The 70th year of the NHS is a great opportunity to reflect and consider the professions that underpin services and support patients with their journey of recovery. The fantastic work of doctors and therapists in neurological rehabilitation is often recognised, however, the same cannot be said for nurses. At The Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital centre for specialist rehabilitation and nursing care, we understand that without nurses most rehabilitation programmes and the achievement of recognised goals and positive outcomes would not be possible.

In 2017 we introduced the role of clinical nurse specialist and went through a rigorous recruitment process to find somebody that could bring the skills and experience to grow and develop the team. We successfully recruited Sarah Harris to the role in October. She has a wealth of experience and expertise in the field of spinal injury and acquired brain injury rehabilitation.

Her role has been designed to provide overarching guidance, support and leadership to the nursing staff and to enable an interdisciplinary approach; pulling everything together – therapy, medical and nursing care – to ensure that the best possible recovery outcomes are reached and that patients have a positive experience during their stay.

Since introducing this role we have seen a significant increase in interdisciplinary working and effective communication. This is reflected in feedback received from external professionals attending case conferences who are now experiencing a much more cohesive and robust delivery and review of interventions. We have also seen a reduction in re-admission to hospital for acute care as the nursing team feel confident and supported in safely managing more complex situations. This notion of investing within our nursing workforce is clearly demonstrating its benefits across the service for nurses, patients and their families. It also creates value for money against the ever-challenging financial constraints within healthcare.

Part of this role is looking after the patient pathway from admission to discharge, ensuring that every patient has a personalised and comprehensive plan for their rehabilitation and care. This does not stop when the patient is discharged – when they go home every aspect of safety and care has been considered with comprehensive transition plans agreed prior to discharge.

Being treated at The Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital is often a life-changing experience for patients. They enter in a vulnerable and limited state, and leave having regained some of their independence. Through support and expertise, it’s people like Sarah who help make this happen; who help change lives.

Sarah is a firm believer that rehabilitation does not begin and end in the therapy gym or hydrotherapy pool. Sarah completes training sessions with all staff on how to carry over what is being learnt in the gym to ensure this is translated on the ward so that function is maximised. She recently purchased a variety of activities for three bed-bound patients to ensure that they were stimulated and continuing with their therapy over the bank holiday weekend. Sarah attends therapy handover, timetabling sessions, MDTs, case conferences and nurses’ meetings to ensure that information sharing is seamless and that patients are getting continuity of care. Jackie Jones, director of operations, said: “Since Sarah joined the team, the confidence of the nursing team has soared, there has never been any doubt that they have the required skills, it has just been a case of giving them the belief in their abilities. It is a pleasure to see the team grow and evolve. Sarah is a breath of fresh air and really does bring a lot of value to the service and, most importantly, to the patients we support.”