We know nurses as the people who look after us.
Who care for us when we’re ill. Who support our families while we’re being treated. And, often, who end up forming strong bonds with us and our loved ones.
But who looks after the nurses? Who provides important psychological and emotional support to them after a hard day? Who counsels and consoles them when they’ve lost a patient they were close to? When they’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed by the burdens of care?
Dawn Bradley – that’s who.
Yorkshire-born Dawn has been in nursing for 40 years, much of that in palliative care – something she traces back to the earliest stages of her career, in the Royal Air Force (RAF).
While working on the RAF’s oncology unit in Buckinghamshire, Dawn came across a boy of just 17 – the son of an air force officer – who was receiving end-of-life care.
“Looking at the way that young man was cared for, and the way his family was supported, I just knew. This was what I wanted to do eventually. Even today, I still remember him, and his family – and the dignity my colleagues were able to give him.”
Soon, Dawn realised that, as a nurse, she needed more psychological support. After taking counselling courses, she ended up becoming a qualified counsellor, then training in supervision – helping her support not only herself, but other nurses, too.
Now, Dawn is blending her two skillsets – nursing and counselling – in her role as a Clinical Supervisor here at ellenor. Since August 2022, Dawn’s been working with both our nursing and counselling teams: supporting, advising, and acting as a sounding board – and outlet – for managing the stresses and demands of their roles.
“Clinical supervision is a bit like a safety net. When you’re providing care that’s quite intensive – quite emotive – it’s important you feel safe yourself. It’s kind of like having a safe haven at home. When you go there, you want to feel secure, and relaxed. By supporting nurses and counsellors in their day-to-day role, I’m ensuring they can have that feeling at work, too.”
Clinical supervision takes the form of both one-to-one sessions with team leaders, and in collaborative groups. These groups are formed of nursing staff across multiple settings – including ellenor’s inpatient ward, and its community- and care home-based teams.
In the nursing teams, Dawn supports clinical staff at all levels: from Healthcare Assistants and Staff Nurses, all the way to Specialist Nurses. In the counselling team, Dawn supervises both qualified and trainee counsellors. Ensuring that, no matter the role or level of seniority, all our nurses and counsellors have access to support.
“Working in palliative care can be extremely emotional”, explains Dawn. “When we look after patients, and get to know them and their family, it’s emotional – and draining. Which is why offering support and clinical supervision is so important.
“It’s not about telling people how to do their job. It’s more about reflecting on what’s going right; or, perhaps, what hasn’t. It’s a place for nurses to come and reflect honestly on their practice. It’s about supporting people, not scrutinising their practice.
“It’s not a place of judgement.”