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Sue Wilkinson, chief nurse at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, shines a light on her colleagues to mark international nurses' day

This week marks international nurses’ day – a day observed annually, to celebrate the contributions nurses make to society.

This year, the theme is #BestOfNursing and, as chief nurse at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, I would like to shine a light on my wonderful nursing colleagues.

I joined the trust just over two years ago in the heart of the pandemic. This was a difficult time for everyone in the country, let alone in the NHS, so I made it my priority to offer support and guidance to the brilliant staff at our trust.

Sue Wilkinson, Chief Nurse at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (56726323)
Sue Wilkinson, Chief Nurse at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (56726323)

One of the main things that sticks out to me, as chief nurse, is how dedicated and hard-working my nursing colleagues have been throughout the pandemic. As the country was grappling with Covid-19,we were dealing with unprecedented challenges across the trust.

It was humbling to be around staff who were absolutely committed to providing care and support to anyone who came through our doors during such uncertain times.

As well as caring for those sick with Covid-19, we continued to care for those coming to our emergency department and patients in their homes – our patients are, and always will be, at the centre of everything we do.

Throughout the pandemic, our dedicated midwives continued to provide a safe space for new generations coming into the world, and rightfully had their own dedicated day, international day of the midwife, which took place last week. While the pandemic continued, our work never stopped.

You may be aware of the difficulty there is nationally in recruiting nurses. We are not immune to this. We are committed to ensuring that levels of nursing staff at our hospitals and in the community, which includes registered nurses and midwives, nursing associates and assistant practitioners, match the needs of patients we are caring for.

To bring in new nurses we look to our own country and abroad. I’m delighted that we have a very strong overseas nursing recruitment programme, meaning we welcome around eight nurses to our trust from abroad every month, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Working at our trust brings a host of opportunities, with new employees being able to be a part of a forward-thinking organisation that’s in the heart of the beautiful Suffolk countryside and just down the road from beautiful beaches. We’re a place of work that champions flexible working, embracing the NHS programme of ‘Flex for the Future’.

While recruitment is important, we know how integral developing our own staff is. We offer a range of career development training and opportunities for existing staff and this has been reflected in our first cohort of nursing associates; a vital part of the wider nursing team which bridges the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses.

We know that Covid-19 has not gone away and isn’t likely to anytime soon.

However, we are looking to the future and how best we can shape services to benefit both our staff and patients.

We recently launched the trust’s five-year strategy – ‘First for our patients, staff and the future’. This sets the framework for how we take forward our services, putting patient care at the forefront of everything we do and looking after staff so they can look after you. We will also shortly be launching our refreshed nursing strategy.

By the end of this decade, we are going to have a brand-new healthcare facility. Our community and staff, including nurses, are involved in shaping these plans. Having our staff and community being part of the conversation from the start ensures we will provide the best possible healthcare in the years to come.

I’m very proud to be the chief nurse and work alongside inspiring colleagues who go above and beyond to deliver highly skilled, safe care to patients every day. They really are the #BestOfNursing.