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NHS Forth Valley Nurses Choir: proud to be nurses

20160702_145901bThe NHS Forth Valley Nurses Choir was born from an idea for Nurses Day which a couple of us put to our Director of Nursing, Professor Angela Wallace – she thought it was a great idea.

It didn’t happen immediately for various reasons including having someone to lead a Choir –  so as a challenge she made it one of my objectives!  It took ages to find someone to lead the Choir, however after some time and through a colleague (who is also a member of the choir), we found the lovely Phillip Todd.

He comes with a wealth of experience, as an actor, film editor, an award winning mod singer, and graduate of the Royal Conservatoire….. The Military Wives have Gareth Malone, but WE got the amazing Phil.

And so the Choir formed in September 2014.

By Christmas that year, we had sung for the Friends of the Hospital, the Health Board at the end of their meeting just before Christmas and the Patient Public Panel at their 10th Anniversary Celebration.

In addition we sang in the wards of one of our Community Hospitals.  What a lovely heart-warming experience that was!  In the dementia ward in particular, the patients sang along with the choir, every word they sang and their families were so delighted. We as nurses were all pretty emotional about that!

Funny story…..We had been asked to sing for the NHS Forth Valley Board Members at the end of their meeting, just before Christmas.  The hospital capacity had been challenging. I am usually in charge of the music.  I use my personal iPhone to play the music via blue tooth through speakers – so in general I stand at the front and at the end of the row.

As I am no technician I hold the iPod in my hand so I can start and stop the music etc.  At the end of the singing for the Board Members, a very senior Doctor came up to me and said well done Rita, How is capacity – what’s happening? as she looked to my phone in my hand?  I looked at her puzzled?  Then realised that she thought I had been texting back and fore – dishing out orders or something – as we were singing!!  I mean really??  I explained nicely that it was the music I was in charge of!  How I wish I was that smart!

We are very lucky to occasionally be able sing the Atrium of our lovely new hospital and as we do so we gather money for various charities, usually one which a choir member has nominated.

One year later in September 2015 we were nominated by members of the public for a Staff Award in the Volunteers category……. WE WON!  What a great achievement that has been for us [pictured].

Winner-Volunteer-Award-Nurses-ChoirThe Royal College of Nursing (RCN) asked us to entertain them at their Reps Conference in October 2015 in Edinburgh.  We were to sing 7 songs.  We were extremely nervous about that I guess, having a fear that it would not go down well.  Fear not!  Our singing went down a storm.  The audience (all nurses) know how to enjoy themselves.  You just have to picture a scene of a sea of people standing at the back their mobile phones in hand with the torch switched on and them swaying back a fore – it was so funny but gave the choir a good feeling.  They gave us a standing ovation!

Christmas time was very busy for us.  We were asked to be part of a Christmas concert for charity.  Some of our local doctors and nurses were heading out to Tanzania to man a ship called the Voyage of Hope and they needs funds – I guess that was our real first big audience.  It was a truly exhilarating experience for the Choir.  The feedback we got was tremendous and gave us a real boost in confidence.

The Nursing Standard got to hear about the Nurses Choir and came to meet with us and arranged a photographer to come along to take photos as we were singing in the Hospital Atrium one day.  They wrote “Forth Valley Nurses’ Choir is making a name for itself by singing at hospitals and charity events. Their audiences – including people with dementia – experience emotional release during the songs, while the nurses benefit from the camaraderie and wellbeing associated with singing in a choir”  We made the front cover of the Christmas Edition of the Nursing Standard.  Wow!

2016 has seen us grow and grow. While continuing to recruit more members we continued to sing different songs together.  The Choir is made up of many fields of nursing, all designations of nurses and in true nurse style have developed a fantastic team where everyone works together, something I personally, am proud of nurses for.  We wear uniform in public and we are proud to be nurses and represent nursing.

This year has seen us take parproud to be nurses and represent nursingt in the opening Ceremony of the Royal College of Nursing Congress – a HUGE event for nursing.  We are proud to have been asked.  During the ceremony our Nurse Director, Professor Angela Wallace, was given a tremendous award of a Fellowship of the Royal College of Nursing in recognition of her work for nursing.  Another proud moment for us, the Nurses Choir and for her to be honoured…… we were present woop wooping!  A great day for NHS Forth Valley Nurses.

We also were asked by the RCN to represent nursing as well as sing at the Scottish Government State Opening of Parliament celebrations.  Some of got to wear old-style uniforms dating back to the early 20th century.  It was a thrilling day being part of the procession down the Royal Mile as well as getting to do what we love…. SINGING.


NHS Forth Valley Nurses Choir pictured at the Opening of the Scottish Parliament

We are having our summer break right now but are due to start back in early September with already a charity concert booked at the end of September….. I wonder what the rest of 2016/2017 will bring for us?

© Rita Ciccu-Moore and Lynne Paterson, NHS Forth Valley
2 September 2016

You can view the Choir singing here:

What do community pharmacists really do? Guest blog by Jonathan Burton

jonathan-burton(4)I’ve been a pharmacist for almost 17 years now, most of that time spent as a patient-facing community pharmacist working in the small pharmacy here on campus at the University of Stirling. Pharmacy is, in some ways, a peculiar profession. Pharmacists receive very thorough training (a four year, science based Masters degree, the MPharm, followed by one year’s practical training and further examination) and work everywhere where there are medicines, from the pharmaceutical industry to hospitals. But it’s in the community (or ‘retail’) setting that we are at our most visible but, arguably, most misunderstood. Where retail space meets the NHS it’s no wonder really that the public often have mixed views regarding what we actually do!

In the last 10 years in particular the role of the community pharmacist has evolved across the UK, with Scotland arguably seeing some of the biggest changes. Our core role remains the same, to effectively & safely check, dispense and advise patients on medicines supplied on prescriptions written by doctors (mainly GPs), dentists and increasingly by nurse colleagues with prescribing qualifications. Interestingly a number of pharmacists also have additional prescribing qualifications, as do some Optometrists, Podiatrists and Physiotherapists.

Increasing pressures within the NHS and a desire for all health professionals to use their knowledge & skills to maximum effect has led to community pharmacists gradually taking on additional ‘walk-in’ clinic roles. For many years now we have offered a range of NHS public health services including:

  • A national smoking cessation programme, community pharmacists manage70% of all quit attempts in NHS Scotland
  • A national emergency hormonal contraception service
  • A range of locally funded services including substance misuse/ opiate replacement therapy, needle exchange, Hepatitis C patient support and alcohol brief interventions
  • Some private services have also become popular, especially influenza and travel vaccination

The traditional ‘over the counter’ sale of non-prescription medicines has also evolved into something more akin to a walk-in clinic service, with community pharmacists also able to assess and treat minor medical conditions as a free NHS service for certain patient groups e.g. children, over 60s, students under 19 and those receiving certain government benefits. All pharmacies in Scotland have private consulting facilities and in some areas, including Forth Valley, community pharmacists are starting to manage a slightly expanded range of common clinical conditions, for example UTIs (urine infections) and minor skin infections through locally funded NHS ‘Pharmacy First’ services.

We are being encouraged to work ever more closely with GP and nurse colleagues and pilots have finally begun to assess the impact of giving pharmacists in the community setting access, with consent, to patient medical records (electronic summaries). I am very supportive of this as, like all health professionals, we just want to be able to do our jobs as safely and effectively as possible. I’ve always loved the fact that I’m perhaps the most easily accessible health professional in my community, you literally never know who will walk through the door next & what you’ll be helping them with. But, despite this, our role isn’t perhaps as clear as that of the doctor or nurse for example, too many years spent hiding in dispensaries perhaps! We need to work on that.

There are many challenges facing community pharmacists as the NHS, our profession and healthcare in general evolves, but I do believe we have an important part to play alongside the other health professions, maximizing the impact of our in-depth knowledge of medicines and our unique accessibility. So, next time you’re feeling poorly or have a question about your medicines don’t forget that one of your options is to ‘ask your pharmacist’!

Jonathan Burton, Community Pharmacist, University of Stirling and
Vice-Chair, Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland

Me, Anthony Nolan and compassion: Ian writes of the importance of kindness, support and sherry trifle

Photo of Ian Spencer

Ian Spencer

A simple stretch one morning over Christmas 2008 and there it was, a lump on the neck.

What do you think to yourself? Cancer? Hodgkin’s Lymphoma? A continuing battle to get rid of it? A year of chemotherapy? Four different chemotherapy regimes, two outpatient and two inpatient? Permanent lung damage from the chemo, hospitalisation due to lung damage, pneumonia and parvovirus, a dozen or so CT and PET scans, seemingly endless blood transfusions followed by seemingly endless venesections, needles after needles after needles, hair loss (twice), visits to five different hospitals? All to no effect?

Can you imagine waiting to see a doctor at the Beatson to find out whether their weekly review of patients decided to give you a stem cell transplant or not – effectively a death sentence? Then good news from the Beatson, followed by more chemo, an allogeneic stem cell transplantation, a month of desolation in the Beatson and five years of battling to feel well?

Do you think of all the people you need to thank? The person who saw fit to register with the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust. I had never even given blood, though as an active gay man the NHS never wanted it. Somebody thought about helping a stranger.  Mo, one of the many nurses who, during a month long stay at the Beatson, brightened every day delivering “two and a coo” (that’s tea with two sugars and milk) and words of comfort and support. Keeping a stranger fighting the battle because she cares. The support of all the countless nurses (Julie, Zoe, Jo etc.) and doctors keeping me ticking over while my body healed and grew strong. Why? Because it was their job? Because they care for others. All that they did for a complete stranger.

All friends and neighbours of Doune who cleaned the house, sorted the garden, supplied meals and gave encouragement (Kate, Joan, Helen etc.), Mags and Robert for all the hugs, Addy for ferrying me to and from hospitals, for shopping, for helping me up the stairs to bed, for tucking me in!!!, for being THE reason I carried on?

Or do you think, damn, that lump is going to hinder my “pick up routine”, and ooh, cold cuts and sherry trifle for boxing day lunch round a cosy log fire?

For me, thinking about cold cuts and trifle won, for that day at least. The lump gets seen to when I get back home. Some worry themselves, waiting to see a doctor. Horses for courses I suppose. I believe it was that kind of attitude, and the unbelievable support and kindness of friends and specialists that helped me from 2009 to today, and gave me six more years of life, so far. More years to “cause a whole lot trouble” before the last Christmas is over and no more sherry trifle left.

This is my cancer story. Still being written as you read. Many more chapters to write. New characters to meet, new storylines, more drama, more horror, more action and adventure but, most of all, more comedy, slapstick and farce. A mix of “Carry on Matron”, “You Only Live Twice”, and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”. Because of all that help and support, I’m trying to give back, by helping recruit people to the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Register and raise money for McMillan Cancer nurses. Give them a click and help save a life like mine.

Thanks to you all.

Ian Spencer
Anthony Nolan bone marrow recipient
10 November 2015

Too “busy living life”? A donor’s decision to put their name on the register saved my daughter’s life

Photo of Deby and Caragh Rough

Deby and Caragh Rough

Organ donation, live life give life, transplantation, the gift of life – you may have seen a variety of slogans aimed at catching your attention relating to organ donation.

But have you ever really stopped to think what is like to be waiting on an organ becoming available to save a life? Your life? A loved one’s life? It’s probably something that many of us think will never affect us.

That’s what I thought – in fact if I am brutally honest I had never gave it much thought at all as I was too “busy living life”. Never did I think I would at the age of 25 give birth to a beautiful fiery Scottish red haired baby who screamed like all babies do and filled my heart with a love that is so strong and deep and a bond that words cannot describe, to then be told that without an organ donor that life would be taken away from us and that would happen very soon….

Life became full of doctors, nurses, hospitals, tests, tears, stress, questions…. and so much more that I didn’t want. The harsh reality is that we were watching our beautiful baby dying in front of our very eyes, and there was nothing that we could do. She had been born with Biliary Atresia, she had a failed Kasai procedure and was listed for liver transplant.  We waited…  We were given a pager to carry and waited for the bleep then the call….

Somebody somewhere had given some thought and taken the time to register as an organ donor, they were not to “busy living life” as I had been previously. That one decision to put their name on the register was about to save my 18-month-old daughter’s life, through the deep sadness of death brought the happiness of life, it was given through choice … as a gift …. A gift that no words can describe… a gift that would change my family for ever and one that we are eternally grateful for.

Anyone of us at anytime through a variety of reasons may find ourselves needing and waiting on a donor organ… Why waste such a precious gift when life ceases … Our whole family was affected, life before transplant was like living a virtual death sentence… life after transplant is like winning the lottery of life. But it still has its challenges along the way.

Live life give life the greatest gift of all, register as an organ donor .. you can take them with you but somebody somewhere is dying without one.

My daughter is now 18 and living life to the full. Special thanks and thoughts will always be in our hearts for the organ donor and the family … without you she would not be here today.

Deby Rough

Many thanks to our guest blogger Deby.  Deby is a proud mum of two, former mental health nurse and now works as a health & wellbeing practitioner for unpaid rural carers.

For further info about organ donation see:

Organ Donation Scotland:
Twitter: @scotorgandonor

Queens Nursing Institute Scotland – supporting community nurses through education and practice – Guest Blogger

qnis logoWhen you see this blog, your first question might be “who is the QNIS, and why are they contributing to a blog on the Stirling University Health Sciences page?”  You may even need to google us. Go ahead, I’ll wait.  I’ll even help.

That is us, the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland. We’re a small community nursing charity, and we have been around since 1889.  We are based in Edinburgh, but cover the length and breadth of Scotland.

That explains the who, but what about the why?

Our mantra is promoting excellence in community nursing across Scotland.  This includes anything that helps get evidence into practice, and we do this by providing professional development opportunities, influencing key stakeholders, and providing funding for research, education and professional development.

What does this mean for you?

It means that we will be here to help and support you in a variety of different ways as you move through your community nursing career, sometimes, without you even knowing.  And this is how we’ll do it.

Photo of QNIS 2015 Conference

QNIS Conference, March 2015, Dunblane

Several of you may have attended our annual conference, held in March in Dunblane.  Next year, our conference is going to be held in Edinburgh, at Surgeon’s Hall.  We have already secured Jos de Blok as one of our speakers, and he will talk about the Buurtzorg model of care and realising a dream – the story of his entrepreneurial spirit, which built on the evidence to make high quality care a reality, which has revolutionised community health and social care provision in the Netherlands.  Our conferences are a wonderful way to develop within your profession, and an opportunity to build and grow your networks.  Further information on the conference will appear on our website later this year.

We encourage excellence by providing awards for the best undergraduate and post graduate community nursing student in each University across Scotland, ensuring that the very best are recognised and rewarded.

We also deliver funding for education and professional development by way of grants.  We have already provided seven grants this year, and the next group of education grants are available until 28th September.  For 2015 we have three funding streams: Individual Education Grants, to help nurses pursue their studies; Learning Visits, where we support a nurse to visit or shadow nurses across Scotland, the UK and Europe, and Team Headspace, protecting time for teams to identify ways to work more effectively together.

Photo of Rob Mackie of QNIS

Rob Mackie, QNIS

One of our core areas is funding research and development.  Each year we establish what key issues need attention, and provide a funding stream for innovation.  This year, our ‘Catalysts for Change’ programme looked at improving health inequalities, and six projects have been funded, covering everything from homeless transitional care to the health of those working in lap dancing clubs.

We are currently in the latter stages of developing a new set of voluntary standards for District Nursing Practice and Education.  These standards will enhance, not replace, the current NMC standards, and will ensure that nurses undertaking the SPQ are equipped for contemporary and future practice.

We offer Long Service Awards to nurses who have worked in the community for over 21 years, ensuring that loyalty and commitment are suitably rewarded.  This also ensures we are there at the beginning of your career, the middle, and at the end of it.

That should explain why we were asked to provide a blog, but if you need any further details, please visit our website.  You’ve already googled it once!

Rob Mackie, Research, Policy and Communications Officer, QNIS
29 July 2015