Here is the next instalment of our series: In Conversation With…Nicola Loncke, senior sister on our neuro ITU, and winner of this month’s You Made a Difference award. If Nicola’s story inspires you to nominate someone from our team who has helped make a difference for you, you can find a nomination form here.
Lives: Wickford with her three children: Harry, 17, Tilly, 13, and Bella, six.
And: Nicola went into labour with first child Harry while working at our Trust!
Congratulations on winning our You Made a Difference award, can you tell us why you were nominated?
In February a patient came in who’d had a brain haemorrhage and was not going to survive. Her daughter came in to sit with her and told me it was her birthday and they had been due to go to a spa together.
It really affected me because I’d recently been planning a spa day with my mum; the patient was similar to my mum’s age, and the daughter to me. So I decided if they couldn’t get to the spa, we’d do our best to bring it to them. One of my HCAs went to get pampering bits and nail polish and we gave them a spa afternoon on the unit. She died soon after so I was really glad we were able to do it. I have these crazy ideas but I couldn’t make it happen without my team, they never say no and do everything they can to make it happen.
It was lovely to win the award. Coincidentally I went to the spa with my mum a few days later and gave her the chocolates which were part of my prize, and took the chance to really spoil her and show her how much I appreciate her.
You’ve worked at our Trust since you started training in 1996, did you always want to be a nurse?
Originally I wanted to work in law – I’ve got the gift of the gab and can sell anything to anyone.
I only ended up in nursing because I played truant from school on the day they gave out work experience placements, so I had to take what was left the next day, a placement at Basildon Hospital.
I was 15 and on my first day I had to put on a big white coat and was sent to the dementia ward. When I walked in I saw an old lady who’d not got to the bathroom in time and was walking around the ward. I guided her back and helped give her a bath and brushed her hair. I found I really liked it.
It was a trigger for me as I realised it didn’t matter what the job involved, I wanted to be able to help people.
After I left school I did a pre-professional course in health and caring, but then I decided I wanted a back-up in case it didn’t work out so did A-levels in psychology, English and theatre arts.
I loved it but all along I knew I still wanted to do nursing, so I applied to our Trust and did my training at Oldchurch and Whipps Cross. I did really well in my first assessment and that made me feel everything was going to be okay.
I started off in neuro ITU and have stayed ever since. I specialised in neuro sciences before I had my first baby, and finished my degree after my second. It’s not easy working and studying with a baby!
Tell us more about going into labour at work…
I was only 25 weeks with Harry when my waters broke. As he was my first I didn’t realise it at the time. I was looking after a patient who was confused and kept getting out of bed and as I bent over my waters broke. The sister offered to send me home in a taxi, but I drove myself to Basildon Hospital.
They manged to stop him coming straight away and he was born around a week later. We were in hospital for seven weeks, luckily he was fine.
What made you keen to work in neurology, and has kept you there?
I got my student nurse placement in neurology and I got confused and thought it was urology! It was quite a surprise when I started.
I spent a lot of time with one patient, John, and his family, as when you’re a student you have more time to talk to patients. He was in his 40s who had everything; a job in the city, beautiful wife and daughter, then he had a brain haemorrhage and it changed his life.
I thought he was a hero in how he got through his recovery. I got close to the whole family and they got me a small thank you gift when he went home. I was so touched. That was when I realised I wanted to work on neuro ITU.
I love my job. At times it can be difficult as the patients we look after are so poorly. The whole team works so hard and everyone goes that extra mile.
I feel like we live 20-year friendships with our patients and their relatives over the course of a few hours as when someone close to them is dying, they want to tell you everything about that person.
What’s kept you at our Trust for your entire career?
I think we look after each other more now than ever. The PRIDE values have played a role in that, I really believe in them.
I’ve also been lucky to have great mentors. Coming into work makes me happy and I feel proud seeing our nurses working.
I say to my nurses if they’re ever frustrated to remember why they got into nursing, as no one comes into it because it’s just a job.
What do you like to get up to when you’re not at work?
My kids keep me busy. Harry plays rugby nationally and is really sporty, Tilly is into fashion and Bella loves dancing.
And the gym is my happy place. It’s where I’m completely away from everything, it’s my time.