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International Nurses Day - Part 1
12 May 2022

Sarah Marshall

As part of International Nurses Day 2022 we sat down with lead assessor, Sarah Marshall, to talk about her career as a nurse. 

AO: Can you tell us who you are and what you do?

My name is Sarah Marshall, I am currently a clinical programme manager for a bowel cancer screening centre at St Mark’s Hospital. It means that I am responsible for looking after the whole of the screening centre, clinically and operationally. I’ve been doing this since we started screening in 2006. It was just me at that point starting the screening centre at St Mark’s as the Lead Specialist Screening Practitioner and 16 years later we now have over 30 staff, several clinic rooms, several offices. We have developed really well as a unit and team.

That’s my day job, I’m also the lead nurse for JAG which entails answering queries and representing the nursing workforce including decon. I am also a lead assessor for JAG. I go out on JAG visits which is great because I get to network with people, visit other units, and provide support & guidance for those in the accreditation process.  I am currently the chair of the BSGNA, and I’m due to step down from that in June 2022 after being in that role for 3 years.

AO: Can you give us a background of your career?

I did a medical rotation when I first qualified as a nurse and after that I went to work on a medical assessment unit, which was quite interesting. I worked in A+E and ITU before I went to work in endoscopy. I went on a secondment initially, and it became more attractive as a career to me which I pursued by applying for a Junior Sister (Old F grade) post at St Mark’s hospital. I then moved into being a senior sister in endoscopy before I left for a year to be a resuscitation officer, but my heart was always in gastro and that’s when I applied for the BCS post and here I am today.

AO: Going back before all of this, what led you to choose a career in nursing?

I had always thought about doing Nursing. I thought ‘what am I going to do for a career and a profession?’. I knew there would be lots of opportunities and I knew that it would be a good career and profession to go into. I was a main carer when I was younger during the influencing years. At aged 10 and upwards I used to help care for my Nan and Grandad as we used to live with them. My Nan had Alzheimer’s and my Grandad had quite severe arthritis which meant he was wheelchair bound. I guess you could say that this was my work experience that led me into nursing.

My A-Levels were a bit of a random mix (Law, Psychology and Chemistry), and I knew they did a degree in nursing at several universities around the country. I went to Brunel university to study for a 4-year degree in Nursing. Which was the best thing that I could do. I also worked as a healthcare assistant at Ormskirk Hospital which was a great experience during the University holidays to earn some money as we didn’t get paid in training, my career developed from there.

AO: How did you get into JAG? 

I have worked in endoscopy pre-JAG, and I’ve worked in endoscopy post-JAG, so I can see the differences that have been made having experienced it. When I was at St Mark’s, and we were about to roll out the screening programme, that’s when we first met Debbie Johnson, and they were talking about JAG accreditation. It was about safety, standards and standardisation.

I do remember at the time is that all the evidence was literally files upon files and pages and pages because nothing was computerised. You had to have around 20 plus lever arch files on the table for the assessment team to go through. Thankfully I wasn’t part of it at that point!

One of our consultants was a previous the JAG Chair, Prof Siwan Thomas-Gibson, I was interested in listening to her and wanted to know how I could get involved. What things could I do? I have been very lucky to be surrounded by very supportive clinicians and a great Nurse leader/ role model (Maggie Vance) within St Marks during my career.

I sent off an expression of interest to be a nurse assessor with JAG and then about a year later I submitted my application. When I got selected, we went for a training day, and I started my assessor journey from there.

AO: How important do you think JAG is for services and clinicians?

With all the, waiting lists, workforce issues and patient expectations I think JAG is more important than it has ever been. How do we give the best patient care and look after our workforce when it feels like we are set up with the unrealistic expectations that we’ve currently got post covid? JAG helps to keep us focused, it’s about the patient, and they are the centre of everything that we do, and sometimes we can forget that when we are looking at targets and waiting lists. So, I think JAG helps organisations understand. It looks at everything holistically and looks at the service as a whole and not just one bit. I think at the moment and going forward over the next few years JAG is more important than it has ever been for patients, the workforce and for services.

AO: What is your best or proudest moment in Nursing? 

I think there are lots of moments from when a patient says thank you, and they go out the door and give you a hug because you’ve made a difference to their day to when the staff come up to you, and thank you for being a supportive manager and for the opportunities that you have given them, they are really proud moments. When you win an organisation award that was also a proud moment for me and the team (staff excellence award winners). There are lots of proud moments, and sometimes you have to keep reflecting on those proud moments to keep you going when you are in challenging times.

AO: I really like that skill of looking back on moments that make you proud to keep you going

 We all try and do things to advance ourselves, and sometimes we need to take a step back and look at what we have done and achieved and reset. I’m conscious within our workforce about having a good work-life balance. Everyone has a life outside of work, and we need to keep that balanced in order to keep on going for future years.

Sarah Marshall was speaking to Anthony Olsson, project coordinator for JAG

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