Our Chief Nurse Kathryn Halford was 18 when she started her nursing career; and it’s the people and variety which have held her interest for almost 40 years.
Kathryn, 54, has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of her services to nursing. With days varying from caring for victims of the London bombings in 2005, meeting celebrities like Madonna on a weekly basis during her time at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, as well as the majority of the royal family, to personally taking apart a commode to check its cleanliness – and ensuring all her executive colleagues can do the same – Kathryn’s nursing career certainly hasn’t been boring!
She said: “After watching Angels, a TV series about nursing, I always wanted to be a nurse. I thought it was a really nice job where you are able to help people. A lot has changed in my career, but that hasn’t.”
Kathryn’s career has taken her to spend a night as the only female at Worth Monastery, so she could speak to one of the monks, a children’s palliative care nurse by day. At the time she was an advisor for the Department of Health leading a report into children’s palliative care. And she opted to spend an evening at a gay sauna, rather than a swingers’ club, as part of an outreach sexual health team.
One of her proudest achievements at our Trust has been reducing the number of pressure ulcers and patient falls – to among the lowest in the country, and reducing serious incidents. “We have a real focus on safety and providing high-quality care,” she said, “but I can’t do that alone. It’s about having a clear vision and understanding and working with our teams.
“Another thing which gives me huge pride is having had the opportunity to be part of teams which are focused on providing high quality care for patients, improving patient experience and developing the next generation to be excellent nurses and midwives. I have been very lucky to have worked with some great colleagues who share my vision and passion for nursing.”
Setting her apart is the importance Kathryn places on visibility, regularly visiting our wards and meeting with frontline staff weekly. She’s keen to point out her job, “is not done in my office.”
Nursing has changed hugely during her career with sometimes very simple technology, such as electric beds making manoeuvring patients much easier. A much bigger change Kathryn has seen is in treatment for patients with HIV and AIDS.
She was a nurse at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington when the epidemic began, caring for some of the very first patients to be diagnosed, and ultimately die, from the disease. She vividly recalls having to wear full protective clothing when treating patients, as the disease was believed to be so infectious.
Some colleagues are surprised to find out that Kathryn is a mother-of-three, to Rebecca, 29, Oliver, 27 and 23-year-old Freya. She’s spent the majority of career working part-time, job sharing or doing condensed hours and puts her ability to ‘have-it-all’, a career and a family, down to the flexibility of the NHS and said, “fundamentally, I am a mum. My family is really important to me”.
Her son Oliver has even followed her into the NHS, as a service manager in acute medicine at our Trust.
Oliver said: “I was keen to get into the NHS because of the career progression, which I’ve seen in what my mum’s achieved.
“I’m very proud of her. She made huge sacrifices for our family so it’s really nice for her to be recognized in this way. She’s a great role model.”
All her family, including husband Roland, 55, are extremely proud of her receiving an OBE, and it was daughter Rebecca who opened the all-important letter from the Cabinet Office with the news.
Kathryn, who spends the week living in Harold Wood, returning to her family home in Gloucestershire every weekend, added: “It went to my home in Gloucestershire and Rebecca called and of course I told her to open it! They are all very pleased for me and I’m very excited.
“The letter came five weeks ago and I’m terrible at keeping secrets so it’s not been easy!”
Matthew Hopkins, our Chief Executive, said: “I am so proud of Kathryn and I’m delighted that she has been recognised in this way. She has made an enormous contribution to our Trust, and to the NHS as a whole.
“I can only guess at how many thousands of lives that Kathryn must have touched either directly or indirectly over the years.
“I knew when I first met Kathryn that she was a person totally dedicated to caring for patients, and absolutely passionate about nursing in all its forms. We brought her here to provide first class leadership and to ensure we were driving up our standards of safety and patient experience.
“The results speak for themselves. She is an inspiration to her colleagues and everyone at the Trust is so proud of her. She’s never afraid to roll her sleeves up and lead from the front.”
Our Chair Joe Fielder, echoed this praise: “Kathryn is a hugely important member of our team, and we are proud to have her at our Trust. Her career is a testament to the commitment and dedication she has shown wherever she has gone. We hope she enjoys this very well-deserved acknowledgment.”
Kathryn is hugely passionate about her profession: “I love the people, those I work with and those I’ve looked after and I love being able to walk onto a ward and talk to a patient. I tell my nurses that we are with people at the best and worst times of their lives, and that they never forget you. Even now when I visit my local supermarket, the cashier still tells me about the achievements of her son, who I cared for years ago when he was a very ill child.”
Kathryn is pictured above.