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My CUH Story - Alison Clark

Alison Clark is the lead nurse for the East of England Paediatric Critical Care Operational Delivery Network (PCC ODN), working across 17 Trusts.

Alison Clark in nurse uniform holding a bunch of flowers
Alison Clark

This year Alison is celebrating 30 years’ service with CUH! Alison shared her story with us.

“I joined the Trust in 1992 as a staff nurse on ward C3 after completing my combined paediatric/adult training at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Royal Berkshire Hospital. As part of my development, I arranged to spend a month on the 4 bedded paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) but found I loved the challenge and decided to stay! I progressed to senior staff nurse and then took on a clinical practice facilitator role, providing education to the team. I was involved in the in house transport team for PICU, bringing critically ill children from around the region to PICU. I was excited to see PICU grow to become an 8 bedded unit during my time there and we were involved in the early development of the paediatric liver transplant programme.

In 2004 I moved back to ward C3 as the senior sister where I continued to work until 2019 when I was appointed to my current regional role as lead nurse for PCC ODN. I was proud to be asked to support the development of the Charles Wolfson Transitional Care ward, I worked on the planning of the unit and also the recruitment and training of the ward team.

I love the variety of my current role which benefits patients and families through ensuring paediatric critical care standards are maintained in whatever environment they are in. I’m involved in supporting 17 different Trusts to provide high quality care to critically ill children through sharing good practice, writing guidelines, reviewing services and providing educational support. I also meet with the other nine PCC networks around the country to benchmark practice. We set up the network in 2019 and our team is slowly growing to include and educator, a project manager and a data coordinator. I hope that through my work developing closer working relationships between teams regionally, we can offer a seamless service.

The PCC ODN team was challenged during the pandemic, moving quickly to remote working but we managed to rapidly develop new guidelines and a virtual educational platform to support our clinical teams. I also trained to be a vaccinator during the pandemic and was pleased to be involved in the Covid vaccination programme at CUH.

To get to where I am today I focussed my development on critical care completing the ENB 415 (paediatric critical care course) and I also found I enjoyed the leadership aspect of my role. In 2002 I completed a degree in Practitioner Leadership through Manchester Metropolitan University and in 2014 I studied with the Leadership Academy and Birmingham University on the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson programme to gain a Masters in Healthcare Leadership. This gave me the skills and confidence to think about my career progression and I was delighted when the Operational Delivery Network role came up. Although this has taken me away from the day to day clinical environment, I still have the opportunity to influence practice and help ensure that standards of care for children and their families are maintained.

I have been working from home since 2020 so my day is largely centred around virtual meetings! I was lucky to have had chance to get out and visit all the Trusts in the East of England prior to the pandemic and this gave me an opportunity to get to know the paediatric teams and understand their pressures. I have regular meetings with the lead nurses and high dependency unit clinicians from each Trust and I ensure that we are focussing our work plans on their needs. I will meet with my educators to ensure we are offering a comprehensive package of support and training for teams and I work with my data coordinator to gather, collate and analyse operational data to support our work. I meet with NHS England’s Children’s and Young Peoples teams and the other networks across England to share ideas and good practice. We are about to start a regional review of paediatric critical care services so I will be visiting all our units over the coming months with representatives from the six Integrated Care Service teams. I am also working with networks in London and Thames Valley on a joint project to support long term ventilation care.

In my 30 years, I have had the privilege to care for many very special patients and families. Our work on ward C3 often involved supporting babies with extremely complex health needs and a number of them were on the ward for many months at a time. I was proud to lead a team of highly skilled and compassionate staff who provided amazing care to these families.

I have enjoyed working at CUH – the paediatric unit is a small part of the Trust but we have some amazing clinicians and teams within the department.

Alison Clark in nurse uniform