Nurse at Balhousie Care Group uses A&E experience to make difference to elderly residents

May 21, 2018

When Kate, a nurse and re-enablement champion at Balhousie Coupar Angus care home, joined Balhousie Care Group in late 2016 she thought it would be a temporary move for her. After four decades working in a range of demanding, high-octane nursing roles, Kate's perception of what it took to work in a care home has altered dramatically.

"When I qualified as a nurse, I wanted to work in A&E so that's what I did for 14 years," Kate explained. "It was hard work, but always interesting and no one day was ever the same. After I had a career break to have my three children, I went into occupational health working for companies such as NCR in Dundee and Gleneagles Hotel. Each job was diverse and I was always learning."

A move from Dundee to Dunkeld in the past few years forced Kate to reconsider how and where she could continue to practice nursing. "Moving out of the city made it more difficult to find occupational health roles so I had to consider other nursing paths."

That's when an agency called Kate and suggested a nursing position with Balhousie Care Group. "I never thought I'd work in a care home", Kate said. "Having never done it before, I thought it would be very different from what I had experienced in previous jobs, so I thought I'd do it for a little while and see how I got on. 18 months later I'm still here and loving it."

Since joining the team at Balhousie Coupar Angus, Kate has used her clinical background to make a difference to residents. In particular, one resident, Sheila Pirie has gone from being Balhousiewheelchair bound to walking again with Kate's encouragement.

"When Sheila arrived here last August I asked why she was in a wheelchair and she explained she'd had a spinal abscess and had lost the feeling in her legs," Kate said. "When she began complaining of electric shock-like pains in her legs, as uncomfortable as it was for Sheila, I knew that was a sign of nerve regeneration and that she could walk again."

Kate then arranged for a physiotherapist to visit Sheila who gave her a range of exercises to help her build the strength in her legs. In the eight months since Sheila arrived at Balhousie Coupar Angus, she has gone from needing a hoist to get out of bed to walking with a tri-wheeler mobility aid. Kate is humble about the impact she has had on Sheila's quality of life.

"What I noticed with Sheila is just something from all my years of experience working in clinical environments. It is a bit more unusual to see this in a care home, but the principles are the same and Sheila had every chance of regaining the use of her legs and the whole team here have been fantastic in encouraging her to keep up her exercises. The next goal for Sheila is to get her walking unaided and she is well on her way to getting there."

Even with 40 years of nursing experience under her belt, Kate is still learning all the time and admits she has been pleasantly surprised by the fast-paced and challenging nature of the work at Coupar Angus. "Throughout my career, I've always been learning and here is no different. If anything, there is an even steeper learning curve. There's so many things to consider - compliance, the Care Inspectorate, social workers as well as the day-to-day and long-term care of our residents."

"What's been most surprising is how similar care home nursing is to working in an A&E department because you never know what you're going into. You know the residents, but anything can happen during a shift, so you are always prepared for any potential scenario."

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