Heart disease covers many heart conditions from palpitations, to heart attacks and heart failure. Six million people in the UK are living with Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and it is sadly taking the lives of 400 people in the UK each day, we are all at risk.
Within four years of starting her role as a Cardiac Physiologist, Lauren Taylor has quickly progressed to a senior position. For National Heart Month Lauren talks to us about her role in cardiology at Portsmouth Hospitals (PHT) and her quick progression to becoming a Chief Cardiac Physiologist.
“My close friend at college had a heart condition and suffered with terrible chest pain during our classes. Heart disease is serious and is responsible for more than 73,000 deaths in the UK each year, so I soon found myself intrigued and interested in the impact of heart disease. I studied A-level biology and chemistry and began work experience at PHT on a surgical ward where I would talk to patients and assist the nurses with their duties, which was a great insight into the medical world and spurred me on to undertake a career in cardiology,” says Lauren.
Lauren went to university in Wales for four years and was ecstatic when her first role was back at PHT in her home town, working in QA Hospital.
“Within a month in the department I could see the value and impact the cardiology department had on so many lives,” says Lauren. “The first time I followed-up a patient with a newly fitted pacemaker it was on a middle-aged lady who couldn’t walk without getting out of breath, and with young grandchildren she felt as though she was missing out. The difference the pacemaker made to her quality of life, where she was suddenly able to run around with her grandchildren, was unbelievable and incredibly touching.”
Each day at work is different for Lauren, where one day she could be working alongside nurses, radiographers and doctors in the cardiac catheter lab and another in the pacing clinic or performing heart scans. “We use ultrasound to scan the patient’s heart checking that it pumps well and that the valves are healthy. When working in the electrophysiology lab, as a team, we are inserting catheters into a patient’s heart to see if it beats abnormally and then removing the cells causing the problem.”
The role varies from day to day with time in the lab being completely different to that spent in a pacing clinic, Lauren tells me, “In the Pacing clinic I will ask how the patient is feeling, check the patient’s pacemaker to find out how often they’ve been using it, the remaining battery life, if they’ve had any unusual heart rhythms that we weren’t aware of, or if the pacemaker needs reprogramming".
Lauren says it took a while to get used to the fast-paced nature of being on call. “You could be at home in your pyjamas about to watch your favourite box-set one minute, and the next thing you’re flying out of the door as a heart-attack patient has been airlifted to QA. One of the first times I was on call I was in the shower with shampoo in my hair when my phone rang and I had to come into hospital with wet hair!” laughs Lauren.
There’s no denying that Lauren has worked hard to achieve the title of Chief after only four-years in post. When asked how she achieved this Lauren says: “I have worked incredibly hard over the last few years and have taken every opportunity that has been given to me. Portsmouth Hospitals is very diverse with lots of educational opportunities so if you keep your ear to the ground and take the opportunities as and when they arise, your time will be repaid through job progression.”
Despite making it to Chief already, there’s no stopping Lauren when it comes to furthering her skills, “I have just started a masters programme called the ‘scientist training programme’, which will take three years to complete. I still get to carry on my job at QA but I go to university for several weeks a year".
Lauren says working in Cardiology is very rewarding and she is still surprised by the array of people that heart disease and heart attacks can effect. “We see all kinds of people on ward, even young people who are incredibly active – heart disease can affect anyone!”
Gail Nicholson is a Milk Kitchen Assistant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital. Gail has been working for the Trust since April 2015.
A typical day for a Milk Kitchen Assistant is to prepare feeds for babies; these feeds are primarily breast milk feeds that mothers of premature/sick babies have expressed for their babies to receive as soon as they are able. Gail and the team will receive information regarding the feed requirements such as dosages and additives and ensure the feed is prepared and ready on time. The team is also responsible for monitoring the stock and ordering new supplies when they run low. This can be one of their biggest challenges as it is crucial to the department that they do not run out of essential stock.
One of the most important parts of the role is to manage the huge volumes of breast milk that has been expressed by mothers of babies in the unit, this milk is both fresh and frozen and the stock rotated to ensure there is no wastage is crucial.
When asking Gail what she likes most about her role, she answered seeing babies’ progress and their feed increase is the most enjoyable – she can see their health improve which mean the baby will soon be ready to go home. She also likes how the department is flexible with working hours.
There are no qualifications required for this role but suitable candidates will have good numeracy, literacy, organisation and communication skills. These skills are essential when liaising with the nurses/dietitians and calculating volumes of breast milk feeds and formula to ensure they are accurate. Gail has built a good rapport with the team and feels confident to put suggestions forward regarding supporting the prolonged use of breast milk, changes in formulae and offering more solutions.
Is a Band 3 Healthcare Support Worker (HCSW), Radiology Day Case Unit, Portsmouth Hospitals Trust (PHT). Angela got into healthcare 13 years ago when she became a care assistant at the South Africa Lodge Nursing Home (Mental Health) in Waterlooville. After time out to have a baby, Angela then returned to Emsworth Victoria Cottage Hospital to work in the Gastroenterology Department. She would clean scopes and put them back together; and at the eye clinic assisted with putting in eye drops. For her training, she was required to work through the competencies.
Angela saw in the local paper a job in diagnostic imaging at Queen Alexandra Hospital and applied, she was shortlisted for the position along with another person. Following interview Angela received a message to say she was successful. Angela was now band 3, not band 2, and knew it meant extra responsibility. She started more than seven years ago and never looked back. Angela went from strength to strength in just a few weeks.
When Angela commenced employment as a band 3 at PHT she found the experience very daunting and at first just scrubbed up and watched. Later she was responsible for laying the trolley out; however, all medication was overseen by the consultants and qualified staff. She has since completed the medicine management competency through e-learning, which covers the giving of medication by unqualified staff, and a course in checking controlled drugs. The team take referrals from every department: renal oncology vascular, gynaecology, percutaneous balloon mitral valvuloplasty for pregnant woman to prevent bleeding; they put in wires and catheters, blow balloon section to block bleeding. For endovascular aneurysm repair (or endovascular aortic repair) (EVAR), the theatre team comes to her department and Angela assists with the stenting of the aorta.
Angela had scrubbed for minor procedures, then a consultant wanted to prepare for a plasty and asked her if she was willing to try. Angela felt nervous at first, but now scrubs for most cases. Angela is involved with the running of the room and checking bloods. She confers with qualified staff and consultants, and they have the confidence in her to complete the task. She really enjoys doing transjugular liver biopsies. It gets quite involved, because you need 2 trolleys, as you are going via the neck and down the body. Angela will prep the biopsy gun; and is there for pullback and put the sample in the pot. It’s really hands-on during the procedure, and in the thick of things with the consultant!