Community Nurse Elizabeth Wilkin gained the title of Queen’s Nurse this month, alongside Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust Director, Carolyn Fowler. Here, Elizabeth shares her nursing career journey and what it means to have the royal title.
What made you choose to be a nurse?
I believe that numerous experiences in life led me towards nursing; it never felt like a predetermined decision. My dad had worked for NCH&C’s Out of Hours team since I was young, so I have been around these wonderful nurses most of my life. During the festive period if my dad was on shift, we would stay up late on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day waiting for him to visit with the Out of Hours Nurse so we could give them a cup of tea and something warm to eat. This was invariably cut short as they would get another call. My mum managed the Norwich Community Alarm Service whose main objective was to keep people independent within their own homes. Being around these professionals who worked hard to look after people at home whilst demonstrating such care and commitment has provided me with a foundation to build my career.
When I was entering further education, my Grandad who lived with us became unwell. He was admitted to hospital and was cared for palliatively and died soon after. I attribute this experience as being the most significant event in steering me towards nursing.
When completing my nurse training, I never really felt at home on the wards. It wasn’t until I had my community placement in my second year that I felt like I had found my niche. Upon qualifying I was successful in gaining a newly qualified position in a North Norfolk team. Over the past six years, I have grown professionally with support from all my colleagues and knowledge gained from experiences with patients.
How does working in the community differ from other areas of nursing?
When you look after patients in their own homes, you are engulfed into their world. You learn so much about patients from just stepping through their front door. You meet those important to them bringing them their shopping or making them a cup of tea, you see their relatives and loved ones in photographs and talk about them, and you become completely immersed within their life story without realising it.
Why is community nursing so important for Norfolk?
Community nursing is important everywhere, not just in Norfolk. Unfortunately, unless a person has required the community nursing and therapy teams’ input, our role is often overlooked or misunderstood. We are the professionals caring for those who cannot get out of their homes to go to the GP surgery.
I feel the most poignant cases where the importance of community nursing is demonstrated is with those patients whose wish is to die at home. We provide support to these patients to facilitate their wishes at the end of their lives and support families and friends throughout this process. You don’t see us until you need us, but when you do, we are there.
What is the thing you love most about community nursing?
Patients – We get to meet so many different people and learn about their lives. I love meeting patients and using my knowledge and wider team to support and empower them to overcome whatever their concerns are. A personal highlight for me is also meeting patient’s pets!
Why did you decide to apply for the Queen’s Nurse title?
My Clinical Lead Rosy Watson had already been successful previously and encouraged me to investigate it. After reading about the origin of the Queen’s Nurse Title and what it stood for, it really resonated with me. I identified with their qualities and felt compelled to apply.
How did you feel when you received the Queen’s Nurse title?
I felt incredibly proud. I had not told many people that I had applied, only those who were involved in my application process. I immediately rang my mum to tell her the news, my colleagues discovered that I had been awarded the title through internal communications and I have had many messages of congratulations.
I expressed in my application that this title is for my family who have instilled values in me imperative to community nursing, my team who have supported me, and my patients who welcome us into their worlds to work with them and their families through the toughest of times. It is because of all these people I am the nurse I am today, a Queen’s Nurse.
The prestigious Queen’s Nurse title recognises individual nurses who have demonstrated a high level of commitment to patient care and nursing practice. It is awarded by the Queen’s Nursing Institute: a national organisation dedicated to supporting and celebrating community
nurses. Carolyn Fowler, NCH&C’s Director of Nursing & Quality, also gained the royal title. Visit Norfolk Community Health and Care (wearenchc.nhs.uk).