Real-life story - Gill Lewis-Hargreaves
Gill knew she wanted to be a nurse from a young age and has had a varied career working in emergency medicine and trauma and orthopaedics. She recently transferred her skills to a role in the NHS 111 service where she's able to work at a senior level.
How I got into the role
From age 6, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I remember watching my grandmother succumb to dementia which shaped my view of healthcare, and I wanted to make a difference, especially to the elderly.
I had my family and later trained as a nurse in my 30s. During the past 21 years, I’ve had a varied career: working in emergency medicine, trauma orthopaedics and now the NHS 111 service.
A year ago, I saw a job advert for the role with NHS 111. I realised I had the transferable skills and knowledge to continue to work at a band 6 level. This was important to me as the service recognised my experience and I could continue to work at a senior level.
I really enjoy what I do: talking to people, hearing their life stories and making a difference.
What I do
On a normal day, I take calls from patients, their families and carers. Calls can be complex, for example, a patient who is unresponsive or has suffered a heart attack, but can be more straightforward too, like mums wanting advice and reassurance after their little one has fallen and banged their head.
I assess calls using a clinical decision support system also known as CDSS (a specialist computer system to help assess people over the phone). Using CDSS I’m able to give an appropriate outcome and level of care to my patients.
There is a misconception that we send an ambulance out to every call. But in most cases, calls can be resolved with self-care or outpatient appointments.
Also, as a senior clinical adviser, I’m trained and equipped to deal with all manner of calls. Only a small percentage of calls require an ambulance response.
The best bits and challenges
As a nurse, I’m used to working with the public in a hospital setting, so it’s a change working in a call centre environment and can be a challenge at times.
However, I enjoy working with my colleagues and the support I get from my team. Shifts pass really quickly and the role is very varied: from helping someone with a small concern to seriously ill patients needing CPR. I get great satisfaction from using my knowledge every day and helping others.
Life outside work
I’ve been a member of Rotary Club for the past seven years. I went to Sri Lanka in 2010 with Rotary International and looked into nursing in the country. It was the trip of a lifetime; such a wonderful experience!
My family is and always has been very supportive of my job, which is vital. They are my refuge when I’ve had a bad day and celebrate my good days and successes.
Career plans and top tips for others
I continue to develop as a healthcare professional. Following the initial three-week intensive training for NHS 111, I’m now undertaking a level 2 mental health course. I’ve cared for people with mental health conditions in my past roles, but this is the first time I’ve received formal training on the subject matter. The course will give me more confidence when responding to calls from people needing mental health support and, more importantly, help me to deliver a better level of care.
Recently, I completed the train the trainer course for CDSS and I now assist with training new healthcare professionals on how to use it. I really enjoy this part of my role and would love to become a full time trainer or perform a role that would allow me to teach others and share my knowledge.
Also, I’m currently in the process of developing a forum for healthcare practitioners who use CDSS. This is so we can share best practice, ideas, or any concerns and learning needs we may have as a group.