An Interview with Nurse Claire Carmichael
9 Sep 2021 | Anne Marie Fogarty
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Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of a GP Nurse would be like? Maybe you’re considering your options to specialise in the profession? Or maybe you’re just curious, we certainly were. Working in community nursing is a rewarding yet challenging position, let’s see how the wonderful Claire pulls it off.
We’re looking into the life of qualified GP Nurse Claire Carmichael, based in Hampshire. We spoke to her back in 2020, when she worked through the height of the pandemic as a then newly qualified GP Nurse. We talked to her about the changes to her daily working life in a GP clinic throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as her personal challenges and goals. We love Claire’s honesty and optimism and thank her for sharing a glimpse into her daily life.
Since we met with Claire, she has widened her achievements massively, as you’ll see from her YouTube Channel.
When does your day begin? Which task(s) do you like to achieve first?
I get to work 30 minutes early every day. This gives me enough time to clean my room down again (extra precautions during lockdown), read through my patient notes for the morning and grab myself a flask of tea to get me through my first session.
What does a day at work look like for you?
Every day is so different because I have such a variety of patients. My patients are all different ages: some have learning disabilities, some have poor mental health and so my own personality and communication has to be adjusted for every person as an individual.
I have 4 sessions a day. The morning session runs from 8.30 am – 10.40 am which is usually blood testing, as some of our blood tests have to be sent off at 1 pm. Then I have a tea break and start again from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm. Again this might be blood tests, but could also be ECG’s, injections or wound management. Next, I will have lunch from 1 – 2 pm: we have a staff room kitted out with all the mod cons to make lunch, which is lovely. 2 pm to 3.40 pm is my next session of the day and this is, again, ECG’s or wound management and some injections or blood tests that don’t need to be sent by 1 pm. Afterwards, we have another tea break (which to be honest, I don’t take! I use this time to catch up or check on emails and updates, but I will always make a tea to do this – a working tea break).
The last session of the day is from 4 pm to 6.30 pm. During this time, I will have a variety of patients and sometimes phone calls to check on patient’s wellbeing – or if there are any questions patients need answered, I will do this too. At the minute I do; wound management, blood testing, ECG’s, blood pressure checks, injections, suture/clip removals from surgery, NHS health checks. But once I have completed my Primary Care course at university, I will be doing a lot more: long term condition management, smear tests, baby immunisations and vaccines. As I am a newly qualified nurse to GP I need this course before I can do these as I have never been trained in them.
Some of the challenges I find are when patients ask me things I don’t know or that I haven’t been trained on. It makes me feel so incompetent that I don’t know, and I put so much pressure on myself afterwards. However, the positive from this is that no one knows it all and even the most experienced nurses don’t know all the answers. I remind myself of this daily, before starting work, to keep me motivated. And anything a patient now asks me, I’ll be sure to do e-learning on it and make notes.
Please describe how COVID-19 has impacted your working life.
Our whole routine has changed. I have gone from having 23 patients daily to about 10 patients daily. This is to maintain spaces in between patients and to give me enough time to deep clean the room. It also ensures that we don’t have too many patients waiting all at once outside the clinic. We wear PPE for every patient now in case anyone has been in contact with COVID-19 and has not realised. We have two clinics where I work: one is the ‘cold site’ for non-COVID patients (anyone with no symptoms or hasn’t been in contact with anyone with symptoms). Our other site has been made into the ‘hot site’ for any patients with symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID. Also, our front doors are closed, so patients have to wait in the car park whilst social distancing properly. Luckily, where I am, people have been great! They have been very understanding so far.
When you finish work or have spare time, what do you like to do?
I like to walk the dogs – with social distancing, of course. It’s nice to get out into the open air and reflect on my week. But I am also very crafty and have been painting rocks, and making little things from resin art. I also do some meditation at home to help free my mind from overwhelming thoughts and anxieties.
Do you have any tips for promoting wellbeing or staying positive?
I’m the most positive person in the world, I think! But I do have anxiety, and no one would ever know. I try to manage it as best as I can, but I do have days where I literally can’t do anything. I need a day of doing nothing and relaxing to recharge.
I always remind myself that I’m safe, I’m ok and I’m loved – three mantras that I say whilst meditating. Anxiety is the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, so it’s important to get that mind and body back into safety mode. Using breathing techniques helps too – there are a few online that you can follow. I tend to breathe in for 4 seconds slowly, hold for 2 seconds and then breathe out for 4 seconds. This helps to regulate your breathing and slow your mind down when it’s anxious.
I also sit and ask myself ‘what’s the worst that can happen right now?’ and follow it with ‘and then what?’ Along with reminding myself that there are so many people out there suffering in life, I remind myself what I am grateful for each day. These may not work for everyone, so find what works for you as an individual and do more of that.
As a nurse, what message would you like to send to colleagues and the wider public right now?
Take some YOU time. It’s been such a busy time, and we are all so dedicated and focused on helping everyone else. But we have to remember that we are just as important as our patients. We have to be our best selves so that we can help others too. And don’t forget, you can’t physically know it all, be kind to yourself and ask for help if you’re struggling right now.
If you haven’t already, do connect with Claire – she is fabulously honest, real and a breath of fresh air!