Supported to Shine - Reflections of a nursing journey
Natasha Baker, 27, a mental health lead nurse at Solent NHS Trust, is still in awe that she has been shortlisted for a Rising Star, Nursing Times Award.
Currently based at the Older Person’s Mental Health Ward at St James’ Hospital in Portsmouth, Natasha say’s nursing runs in the family. "My mum Sharon has been a mental health nurse for many years and actually worked for Solent for 11 years. Even though I wanted to be a teacher growing up, nursing and caring for others was always something I resonated with very strongly.” When reflecting on her journey, Natasha recalls a time as a child that impacted her greatly, when she would accompany her mum to care homes and play her recorder for the elderly.
Natasha started out as a support worker at the Brooker older persons mental health ward at St. James Hospital on a 9- month maternity cover contract in 2014. After that experience – she was hooked. “I absolutely loved it. I felt so valued as a staff member.”
After this she decided to embark on a journey to university to study nursing and take this newfound purpose further. In 2016, Natasha enrolled into the mental health nursing course at Southampton University.
Natasha then found her way back to Solent and after working in the private sector for 10 months. “I worked in adult rehab, but during my time there, I realised how much I missed working in the NHS and wanted to get back into Solent. It was then that I applied for a role as charge nurse at Brooker ward and was successful in February 2021.
“During this time there was an opening for an interim ward manager which I applied for and was successful.” And it was in this role that Natasha really shone, leading to her nomination for the Nursing Times ‘Rising Star’ award.
“During my time in this role, I implemented a few significant changes such as updating our patient food and fluid charts from a 17-hour to 24-hour period, which enables staff to monitor fluid intake in more detail, improving the care patients receive. I also updated our patient property forms which we rolled onto the other wards. These forms really help patients and reassure them as we can keep track on their property.”
Improving patient care
Among other things, Natasha also enabled staff to carry out long days, which has helped with living costs. She adds: “I think all these changes led to my nomination by my colleagues. A lot of the work I did with my team is improving the care being delivered to our patients, allowing us to capture more detailed and accurate data this especially with our patients who are mentally unwell. .
Natasha loves people and being part of bringing people comfort and joy. She adds: “I love being around people. I love listening and talking to people, especially with older people, that is where my passion lies and it’s very rewarding to see people I help, benefiting from the care. To know that I have an impact on somebody’s life and aided them in their recovery is my driving force. Even though you can have challenging days, seeing your patients respond positively and seeing their life improve make it all worth it.”
Being nominated, and then making it onto the final shortlist, is still a pinch me moment for Natasha. “I feel so honoured and privileged that I was nominated. And then to be shortlisted for the awards is incredible, it’s unbelievable. I just do my job for the love of my work and the positive impact it has people’s lives, and for that to be acknowledged is special.”
Natasha feels fortunate to work within a team that is so supportive and with a leadership team that is empowering. “I feel Solent really does stand for its HEART values. I feel supported in many ways, and Solent’s priorities are both aligned to its staff and patients – this is really reflected in its workforce too. Solent really value their staff and there is always someone I can talk to.”
Award nominations also run in Natasha’s family, with her mum, Sharon Simpson, winning the Nursing Times award for Clinical Research Nursing in 2018 whilst working with Solent as a research nurse.
On choosing nursing as a career path, Natasha says “people shouldn’t be afraid to try new things." She took her own advice, and now, she’s shining.
**The awards https://awards.nursingtimes.net/nta/en/page/home will take place on October 26 at Grosvenor House Hotel in London .We wish Natasha the best of luck**