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Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Armstrong – WT Nightingales - Sarah Armstrong

Western Trust Nightengale Challenge Sarah Armstrong, Resuscitation Officer, Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry
Career History
  • Qualified as a nurse in 2007 from University of Ulster
  • January 2008 to June 2013: Belfast City Hospital – Gastroenterology and General Medicine – Band 5
  • June 2013 to May 2017: Altnagelvin Hospital – Cardiology – Band 5
  • May 2017 to November 2018: Altnagelvin Hospital – Cardiology – Band 6
  • November 2018 to June 2019: WHSCT – Resuscitation Officer – Band 6
  • June 2019 to Present: WHSCT – Resuscitation Officer – Band 7

I was not that girl who always wanted to become a nurse, I “fell” into nursing and I can remember the exact moment I fell in love with it. It was my first placement in Altnagelvin Hospital and a patient who was admitted who was very unwell, the care and compassion and level of skill the nurses looked after her with, I was in awe. From that moment I never looked back!

Why did you choose this job?

I have always had a passion for teaching and imparting my skills and knowledge to other people, I mostly fulfilled this by student mentoring and my several link nurses roles within the wards. I did not want a pure education role as I felt I would miss out on patient contact, so trying to find the fine balance between the two. A resuscitation officer encompasses both of those roles, education and patient care. I enjoy empowering other members of staff with the knowledge of resuscitation guidance to help them within their clinical practice. I also wanted to challenge myself to go beyond teaching on the wards and I find that this job provides me with that challenge.

I know it has been a particularly challenging couple of months for all health care workers due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you explain what has changed in your role? What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

My job role never really changed per say, but when COVID-19 came there was changes in guidance with resuscitation. We had to look how we were going to implement that keeping in mind social distancing. We created a video of what to do, drew up algorithms and planned 15 minutes drop in sessions with questions and answers of what to do. All information was shared on our SharePoint page, sent out as trust communications to allow staff access when needed. We have got back to increasing our drill sessions again as we have found these to be most beneficial for staff.

The most challenging side of it was how too actually to continue to provide training – could we go online/Zoom etc. But as resuscitation is a practical skill this was not an option for us, we needed to be able to see people perform the skills to assess them. Moving forward with training we have reduced the numbers of candidates per trainer – to help maintain social distancing. We have access to gloves, hand washing facilities and masks and aprons if needed.

This is the Year of the Nurse/Midwife and although many plans to celebrate has been significantly curtailed due to COVID – what makes you proud to be playing your role as a nurse/midwife?

I have always been proud to say I am a nurse, there are challenging days were I think “I can’t do this anymore”, but I rise above it to make sure that my patients are getting the best care possible. That feeling knowing that you have made a difference even if it’s a small one is the best feeling in the world.

From this role, knowing that staff have gained the most out of their training and felt empowered with the knowledge and skills to impart onto patients makes me feel proud. I have received feedback from staff who have encountered arrests after attending training and they said that they felt more confident in their skills and abilities to perform during a cardiac arrest. This ultimately provides patients with standardised care in the hope of a more successful outcome.

All health care staff have risen to the challenges faced by this global pandemic. Many traditional services have had to be stopped or done in a different way either via telephone or virtual clinics. Have you experienced this in your role and how do you think this has or hasn’t worked?

The smaller class numbers have been working well, normally we would train 6 people per trainer, and it’s now down to 4. The feedback from candidates is that they prefer the smaller numbers as they feel less pressure and as the trainer I feel I get to spend more time with each candidate individually. A direct challenge to this would be that our numbers of staff that will be trained will be lower as a result, a way that we have tried to overcome this is to run two classes at the same time with two trainers.

Looking forward to the next year or so – what would you like to see achieved in Health and Social Care?

Overall for health and social care I would like to see shorter wait times to health services and also simpler ways for patients to access the service they require. It can be difficult for everyone to access the services that they need and then as a direct result, then follow a less appropriate path to the services they need. Such as needing to see a doctor and cannot get a GP appointment, so they attend ED instead. This is a larger issue within health and social care and unfortunately is not going to be solved overnight.

How does your work help in the overall delivery of Health and Social Care services?

As a resuscitation officer I support and facilitate learning to enable staff with the identification of the deteriorating patient to stop them from arresting. Help to maintain standards within resuscitation and if issues are identified, I facilitate any learning and training needs that arise from it. I feel our training has had a direct impact on staff as year on year our inpatient cardiac arrest figures are going down, our staff are working extremely hard to prevent patients from arresting in the first place, which again provides better outcomes for patients.

Please also include any particular personal messages of how you, your colleagues have supported each other during this global health crisis.

Because we are a small team it is important that we all play a supportive role. We just continued to do what we normally would have done. Lend a listening ear if someone had a problem, even small things like provide a cup of tea and a home baked treat or bun, can really take the pressure off. We regularly check in throughout the day to make sure that things are ok and share workload accordingly.

What advice would you give to the public on how they can help the NHS deal with the ongoing pandemic in the months ahead?

Following their own common sense and advice from the government, maintain good hand hygiene and being sensible. I understand it’s difficult, but it won’t be forever if we all pull together now.

Sarah is one of 20 nurses and midwives in the Western Trust who are taking part in the Nightingale Challenge. The Nightingale Challenge was launched by Nursing Now – a programme of the Burdett Trust for Nursing, to improve health globally in collaboration with the International Council of Nursing and the World Health Organisation. The Nightingale Challenge asks for every health employer to provide leadership and development training for a group of young nurses and midwives during 2020, the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.