Joan Sirett, Matron at Sonnet Care Homes, has dedicated her life to caring for others, having received her nursing qualification in 1980. She was recently a finalist in The Great British Care Awards and was hailed by the judges for her compassion and wonderfully positive approach to both her staff and residents. Here Joan talks about her career and her passion for nursing in social care.
I started my career as an Auxiliary Nurse working evenings to fit in with the family. I commenced my State Enrolled Nurse training in 1978 and qualified in 1980, then after 6 months I was lucky to be accepted on the very first Conversion Course to become a Registered Nurse. The conversion was with Chelmsford District School of Nursing as there were no universities in those days for nurses! I really enjoyed my training and was proud to receive the gold badge, which I still have, for the student with the highest score in the final examinations.
As a Registered Nurse I then went on to attain degrees in Healthcare Management, Infection prevention and Control, and Nurse Education.
I feel that my career has really benefitted from my working my way up through the ranks from Nursing Auxiliary to Nurse Consultant and now as Matron for Sonnet Care Homes. It has given me an insight into colleagues needs and concerns at all levels, and I am able to better understand the pressures they face.
Nursing is a career for people who have the best interest of others at heart. It can be sad, it can be rewarding, and it can be frustrating at times, but mostly nursing is putting yourself in the place of the other person and doing all that you can to make them feel safe and reassured that you genuinely care.
One of my favourite things is supporting student nurses and seeing them develop into competent, efficient and effective professionals. Every student is different, some need more guidance, some need to be helped to step back a little and to learn not to run before they can walk. It is very satisfying when students contact me to let me know that they are now practicing as a Staff Nurse. I always remind them, do not forget your patient, they are the most important thing in your working day.
My role as Matron for Sonnet Care Homes is especially satisfying because it is so diverse. I can be working with frontline team, teaching with our Trainer, or being a practice supervisor to student nurses, trainee paramedics and student mental health nurses, as well as ensuring good practice and coordinating new initiatives within the care homes.
Recently I managed the Gold Standards Framework (GSF) accreditation initiative St Mary’s Court Care Home. This involved ensuring that the whole team were aware of what was happening, empowering them to ask questions, and making them comfortable with their personal role in the accreditation process. Once the team understood that the resident would benefit from the GSF, it was much easier for the initiative to be a success. We attained the accreditation with credit which I could not have achieved alone, it was real team effort. Through the same process of education, communication and team support, The New Deanery Care Home is also now close to achieving accreditation on the GSF. This will mean that all Sonnet Care Homes residents approaching the end of life will have their needs met in a timely manner to ensure a peaceful, dignified and pain free end to their life. Our residents only die once and we must get it right for them and their families.
My ethos has always been ‘care for others’. From taking students under my wing, to looking after people and their families, to helping to make a stay in a care facility the best it can be. I am an ‘old school’ nurse and although nurse training has changed considerably, I believe that nursing is still a wonderful and satisfying profession.