Louise Breen is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner and Lead Nurse in Endocrinology at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Here she tells us about her path to nursing and her involvement in the Society which culminated in her becoming the first Chair Elect of the Nurse Committee.
How did you get into endocrinology?
My interest in endocrinology was triggered in 1996 working as a staff nurse for pre-assessment and endocrine testing during a 3 month line of work at the Diabetes and Endocrine Department at St Thomas’. I returned the following year as a research nurse undertaking pharmaceutical company sponsored clinical trials in diabetes and endocrinology. It was the research in adult growth hormone deficiency that interested me most.
I was extremely fortunate to work with Professor Peter Sonksen who had a very progressive and supportive attitude to the advancement of endocrine nursing, he encouraged me to push myself in developing my knowledge and skills. I continue to be surrounded by an innovative, enthusiastic and supportive team.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
- Team work
- Making a difference to patient care
- Continued learning & development in my role, clinically and strategically
- Mentoring staff
Can you tell us what you’re most proud of in your career, so far?
When I started out there was no designated endocrine specialist nurse, in 2003 we successfully proposed the first ESN role, I got the job and our ESN service has continued to grow. We now have a team of eight, and provide the following services: Nurse-Led Clinics, MDT support (Pituitary, Adrenal and NET), Endocrine Testing and Reporting, Patient Education, Education for other HCP and active input into research, audit, the development of guidelines/protocols and standard operating procedures.
My qualifications in Advanced Assessment and my registration as a Non-Medical Prescriber have allowed me more autonomy in practice and improved my knowledge and skills in endocrinology.
In 2011, I established the Nurse Led Virtual Thyroid Clinic which was well received by patients and has gone from strength to strength. Pre-COVID we undertook on average 30 virtual reviews per week, which put us in a good position during the pandemic.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work?
Fortunately we were well set up for virtual reviews and maintained a reasonable amount of scheduled activity, albeit with staff deployment. We are gradually getting through the backlog and returning our focus to ongoing service developments, research and audits. Remote meetings have been invaluable and in many cases a more productive and inclusive way to meet.
On reflection I have identified areas where we can be more efficient and recognised that we had little give in our service for ESN cover, as a result we proposed and created Band 6 and Registered Nursing Associate roles.
Why do you think it’s important to get involved with Society roles?
The Society are an excellent organisation to work with and the team supporting the Nurse Committee are very motivated, enthusiastic and supportive. I have served two four-year tenures and am now in my one year term as Chair Elect before I proceed to the role of Chair. My organisation views these roles as important for professional development, supporting me to attend relevant Society meetings.
Being at the hub of endocrine nursing in the UK has so many advantages in improving your knowledge and expertise in endocrinology and in my case has aided career progression.
The progression and advancement of endocrine nursing and my career have motivated me to continue my work with the Society. I have been extremely fortunate to work with exceptional people in this role and have made long lasting friendships.
What inspired you to apply to be Chair Elect of the Nurse Committee?
It is a pivotal time for the advancement of endocrine nursing and I wanted to be part of that ongoing process. The GIRFT report made it clear that we must focus on the retention and progression of nurses in endocrinology.
My experience and close working relationship with the Society and the Nurse Committee has readied me to take on this position. As Chair Elect it is a huge advantage to work alongside Anne Marland, our current Chair, to better understand the roles and responsibilities of the position and to continue to push the nursing agenda forward as I move into the role of Chair.
What advice would you give to anyone considering being more active in Society activities?
Believe me when I say there is always something you can contribute. Many nurses hold back from applying for committee positions, thinking they don’t have enough experience, expertise or time. The committee is very welcoming and supportive.
Getting your employer on board to support time to attend meetings and undertake committee tasks is an important consideration, most employers will generally see the mutual benefit of this role. Travel expenses are covered and there are a number of virtual meetings to avoid too much time out of clinical roles.
If you feel you don’t have time for a committee position, think about putting yourself forward to present at Society conferences, Chair a session or submit and present an abstract. Get in touch with the Nurse Committee if you have any queries.
Visit our dedicated endocrine nurse careers webpages for more advice and opportunities.