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A respiratory nurse’s perspective
29 December 2023

Sue Mason

As a part of the celebration for International Nurses Day in 2023, we had the pleasure of speaking to Sue Mason, a Hospital at Home respiratory nurse, working with COPD patients.

It was fantastic to get an insight into respiratory nursing from Sue’s perspective, the benefits it can have for patients, as well as a little sneak peek into how their PRSAS self-assessment is going!  

How did you start focusing on respiratory?

Being a nurse was all I ever wanted to do, since I was very little. I became qualified in the 80s and started working in respiratory in the 90s. In 2001, I started at the service I run now – a Hospital at Home service for COPD patients. By 2007, we had taken on a physio and a technician to do pulmonary rehabilitation – we will be 22 years old in October 2023.

What is your favourite thing about working in pulmonary rehabilitation?

Helping people with their ability to do something small, as it can have a huge impact on their day-to-day life. It’s really all about enabling people with long term conditions to lead the best life they possibly can. For some people, they’d like to be able to do the weeding or clean the windows – going back to playing bowls was quite common! The aim for Hospital at Home, was to enable people to spend less time in hospital. We actually made a calendar showcasing people who went back to doing something they enjoy – we called it ‘Moments that Matter’.

Luckily, I still do some clinical time, and I get to see the feedback our team gets and the thank you cards, biscuits and chocolates they receive.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career as a respiratory nurse?

I had a manager while I worked on the chest ward, she was really encouraging and supportive. When I look back, I’ve now spent most of my career in respiratory care and I’m here thanks to the nurses who support each other.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To believe in myself more! It’s something most of us don’t do when we’re younger, but actually you can do more than you think you can.

How would you encourage others to work in pulmonary rehabilitation?

You have to have a passion for the day-to-day work – it can be hard at times! If you really enjoy helping people achieve a good quality of life, respiratory medicine is a place where you can do that. You can see the change – if someone comes in and they’re afraid of being breathless, and you can make that better, their life will really improve.

What would you say the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation is towards patients mental health?

During COVID we turned to virtual classes, and I do think that patients missed out on that social aspect. For years, people had met up for maintenance drop-in sessions before the classes, and even when the gym instructor running it left, they still continued to do bits together. That point of view is really important, and we need to think about what we can do to enable groups of people who have connected during their time in the programme to continue to have that support. We’re looking at how to have something that is more social than medical, while still having that medical input. Making sure they have somewhere they can go to do things like mindfulness, playing games and maintaining that social aspect is maintained. Breathlessness can cause social isolation, which can cause a spiral which makes everything ten times worse.

How is your PRSAS self-assessment going?

We’re working through it, like others we have a few workforce gaps. For me, standardising things and making sure we’re all doing the same things is really useful. Getting all the services together has been an amazing, invaluable experience, we’ve been able to pool resources together and share the workload. As a Greater Manchester group we recently met all the services, and it was reassuring to hear that we’re all having the same staffing issues, and that’s really difficult for us.

If I could take a month to just work on it, we’d be able to do it, but unfortunately our field of pulmonary rehabilitation is facing workforce difficulties and COVID challenges. We started with the service SOP because if you get that right, it covers a lot of your domains. A lot of it is QI – we can use the things we already doing, it’s just a case of collecting the evidence.

It does take a while to get through – initially we had some people worried that if we didn’t have it done by a certain time, we wouldn’t be accredited. We sat down and talked with them to let them know actually, there’s no looming deadline, we just keep working through it until you get there. For some people it will take a while, and that’s absolutely fine. We’ll all get there eventually, it’s just a question of when.

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