A day in the life: Kalee Morrow

Feature - 8TH FEBRUARY 2018

Kalee Morrow, senior nurse at Weymouth Street Hospital, on the challenges and pleasure of her profession

Portraits: Christopher L Proctor

I’m not very good at having breakfast. As a rule, I don’t like having it until my patients are discharged—and by the time I have done that, it can sometimes be gone 11. By that point, I just think, what’s the point? It’s basically lunch time.

The days here are very fast-paced: it’s a small hospital compared with others, just 17 beds, but we have a high turnover of patients, spread out over three floors. I have clinical days and non-clinical days. On my non-clinical days, I’m supposed to be focussing on my paperwork and audits, but as senior nurse I still have to run over the different floors checking that everyone is okay and everything is running smoothly. On those days I really miss spending time with the patients, making them as happy as possible, having a bit of a laugh with them.

Although it is a boutique hospital and it is elective, it is still a bit scary having an operation, wherever you are. Making sure that patients feel safe and comfortable and well looked after—that’s what we’re here for. Our patient feedback is 99% excellent, and that’s what gives me the greatest job satisfaction. On my clinical days, I’m still in charge of the floors, but I have patients myself as well—in effect, double the workload! Of course, all the nurses here are excellent but if anything comes up that they need help with, I need to be there for them.

A good skill mix
All sorts could crop up: from an emergency admission to a staff query. If we do get an emergency admission, it’s important I am on hand to help re-shuffle bed allocations and ensure all policies and procedures are correctly followed. I am responsible for staffing on all the floors—which sounds fairly simple, but actually making sure you’ve enough on each floor, that there’s a good skill mix and that everyone works well together, does take some doing.

We have a huddle on the second floor every morning to complete a handover from the night staff and ensure we’re all up to speed, then everyone goes to the floors I’ve allocated to them. We just crack on, really, but the whole thought process is more complex than you might think.

The full handover takes place at 7:30am. By then, I’ve already been awake for two and a half hours, because I live in Cambridge. I’m not a city girl: I have a dog and I like to see a bit of greenery, but it does mean I have to leave the house at half past five every day. I have a baby, so I work three-day weeks at the moment. Of course there are sometimes days when something happens at the last minute, and I might have to stay until 10 or 11pm—even overnight—but I usually get away by 8 o’clock.

Having all the right information

“Having all the right information is essential, which is why it’s important for me to be approachable."

Teamwork and communication
Nursing is all about teamwork and communication. It can get very busy, especially first thing in the morning. You have to discharge patients, get the rooms thoroughly deep-cleaned and prepared for the next patients, all by 10am. We need to work closely together, and that’s what I am there to facilitate. I need to accommodate everyone on the team, make sure there is good communication between them, and liaise with the healthcare assistants, the housekeepers and the kitchen, so they know what to prepare for the new patients.

Having all the right information is essential, which is why it’s important for me to be approachable. In the old days, the matron was so intimidating, people were scared to come and see her! That is where things start to go wrong.

The role of nursing has changed in other ways since then, of course. We have more paperwork, for one. We also have to stay up to date with training, to keep our Nursing and Midwifery Council pin. We do a bit of in-house training, but a lot of it is external and I need to manage that for our nurses. We try to get ahead of the mandatory training by at least a year, if we can. I also need to build up a good relationship with the consultants. It’s good to check if they’re happy and if there are any improvements we can make from their perspective. There are always little tweaks.

Managing pain
One of the most important parts of a nurse’s job is managing pain through medication and through talking to the patient before the op about what to expect. When you are carrying out an admission, it is really important to have time to be able to say, this is the plan, this is how you’ll feel afterwards, this is what we can do for you. We are constantly assessing and reassessing the situation—and we have to write down everything we’ve done, every time we’ve been into the room.

Before I go, I have my mini-routine. I check every single floor to make sure all my team and the patients are okay. It’s nice to have time to get to know the patients and staff and not be rushed off your feet.

On a working day, by the time I get home I only really have time to have dinner and go to bed, before getting up the next morning to start it all over again. I love it though. I wanted to be an artist when I was younger, but my mum wanted me to do something with more regular pay and thought I would make a good nurse. I still make art in my spare time, but I think she was right.