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Nursing: a calling that’s #HereForLife

To mark International Nurses’ Day the CCG’s quality manager, Lucy Walker, tells of her reasons for wanting to be a nurse, how she came to reach her goal, and how the COVID-19 pandemic took her back to the front line of patient care.

I have always wanted to help people. As a child I wanted to be either a Care Bear (Hopeful Heart Bear), a My Little Pony (Princess Sparkle), a police officer or a nurse. Luckily my mum bought me a nurse dressing up outfit one Christmas and the decision was made.

Lucy Walker, NHS Calderdale CCG Quality Manager, aged five. She is dressed in nurse dressing up outfit and smiling at the camera.
Lucy Walker, NHS Calderdale CCG Quality Manager, aged five.

I went to school in Bradford before starting my nurse training at Bradford University. One of my core values is being part and proud of the community, so I am incredibly proud of living and completing my training in Bradford. It has always been important to me that I work in and give back to my local community, and I’ve had the privilege of living and working in Calderdale for the past three years . Working as a nurse in a commissioning role allows me to influence change at scale which was another goal of mine when I qualified back in 2006.

I started my nursing career as a staff nurse at Airedale General hospital, and I’ve always loved the variety and acute nature of  medical nursing. The diverse nature of the work meant that there was never a risk of boredom, and no day was ever the same. My career progressed during my time at Airedale from staff nurse, to junior sister, to ward manager. As I started my nursing management career I began to understand the value and need for nurses to be courageous and driven, and I became determined to use my nursing experience as a chief nurse or system leader – that’s the dream, anyway!

After nearly 12 years working in secondary care I was ready to stretch myself and joined the serious incident team in the commissioning arena. Transitioning from an acute nurse to a commissioning lead was challenging at times, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made, because without this this opportunity I wouldn’t have learnt so much about influencing and driving change at scale.

Fast forward to today and I’m now an integral part of Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) quality team, in a role I love. Being a quality manager allows me to seek assurances about the care provided to our local population and work with individual providers to improve the quality of care our local population receive.

After working within the CCG for around three years the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. I was as scared and apprehensive as the rest of the population, but also found working behind a desk incredibly challenging as I knew that I had the clinical skills and managerial expertise to support and lead clinical teams on the front line of care. I was fortunate that an opportunity arose to support an acute provider – a residential home in Calderdale that increased its number of beds to support patients with COVID-19. I jumped at the opportunity to become the clinical lead of the unit and dusted off my uniform.

I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to be redeployed to help the fight against COVID-19. It has changed my practise in so many ways and I feel privileged that I am a senior nurse with the skills and expertise to take this opportunity to help people at such a difficult time.

Lucy Walker in her nurse's uniform, wearing a face covering and face shield. She is holding an electronic tablet and gacing the camera.
Returning to the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I loved being able to work clinically again and manage a team of amazing and strong nurses who, like myself, wanted to fight the virus and nurse people back to health or provide them with a dignified death. I love people and was able to give back to my community by providing healthcare and comfort through some scary and uncertain times. The knowledge and experience I gained during my time as a clinical lead during the pandemic has also helped to support other care homes experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks

My ability to empathise, offer practical helpful support and advice and assist on the front line if required has been welcomed by care home managers and enabled me to develop much stronger working relationships with our partners in social care. They respect me as a strong nurse, and I respect them as professionals working in such challenging circumstances.

My experiences in nursing during the COVID-19 pandemic have made me realise that I am a courageous, fantastic nurse who gives 110% to anything I set my sights on. It has taught me that I need to be kinder to myself, that showing my feelings to any team I manage is not negative but allows them to see the real, authentic me.

It’s given me the confidence to be positive and not give into ‘imposter syndrome;’ given me a positive mindset that ‘I can do this;’ that I make a difference; that my thoughts and views not only matter but, are a valuable contribution. 

I love my role and truly believe that nurses are total superheroes.

Further information

Find out how you can get involved this Nurses’ Day by sharing stories that show the #BestOfNursing (www.rcn.org.uk)

This International Nurses’ Day 2022, hear real stories of how nurses and midwives are impacting care and outcomes across the NHS in England, the UK and Ireland at www.herefor.life