Nursing is a serious business, it’s important to have fun…

Nicky Piper_World Health Organisation_Year of the NurseThat is the motto of our Associate Director of Nursing (London & Midlands), Nicola Piper, who qualified as a Nurse over 30 years ago. Nicky made the shift to Occupational Health Nursing in 1999 after leaving Brunel University with a Bsc (Hons) specialist practitioner in OH.

From helping troops on the ground in the aftermath of 9/11, to resuscitating a fellow spectator at a Charlton Athletic FC match, Nicky has had an exciting, eclectic and emotional career as a Nurse, which has (literally) taken her around the world.

In honour of the World Health Organisations’ Year of the Nurse & Midwife 2020, we caught up with Nicky to get the lowdown on the highs and lows of her nursing career.

CV Highlights

  • NHS – Orthopedic Unit at Westminster Hospital
  • NHS – ICU at Westminster hospital
  • NHS – A&E Sister at Kings College Hospital in London
  • Daily Mail Newspaper Group – Nicky worked in the Printing Works and introduced their first heath surveillance programme
  • Harvey Nicholls – OH Department
  • Met Police – 15 years as Head of Nursing and Counselling. In this time Nicky helped troops on the ground at 9/11, the Boxing Day Tsunami and the London Bombings
  • OH Provider – Clinical Lead
  • Joined Medigold Health in 2019 as Associate Director of Nursing (London and Midlands)

Why did you decide to embark on a Nursing career?

“I have always been interested in helping people and believe it or not, I initially thought about  becoming a lawyer.

However, my fascination with health and, quite simply, people being well, getting well and staying well, drew me into the nursing profession.” 

What was your first post as a Nurse?

“My first nursing job was in orthopaedics at Westminster Hospital. It was hard work but it lived up to all of my hopeful expectations.

I really enjoyed working with patients and helping them to rehabilitate and recover, it was incredibly rewarding.

Speaking of rewards, my Ward Sister at the time was married to a dentist and was obsessed with dental hygiene and used to withhold all of the chocolate and sweet gifts that the patients would give us!”

What has been your favourite nursing role to date?

“As a General Nurse, my favourite post had to be my time as A&E Sister at Kings College Hospital, London, as I never knew what was coming next! It was incredibly busy and fast-paced but also lots of fun and very rewarding with no 2 days being the same.

In terms of OH Nursing, my favourite role is here at Medigold Health of course!”

When and why did you move into Occupational Health nursing?

“I moved to OH Nursing in 1998 as I had experienced so much with General Nursing and wanted the next challenge.

I spent many years working within in-house OH departments including the Met Police and the Daily Mail and I made the shift to working for an OH provider in 2014 to broaden my skills and work across a variety of sectors and client bases.

I believe that my General Nursing experience plays a crucial role in my position today as it grounded me and enabled me to get a solid understanding of illnesses and their impact on an individual. Today, I am able to apply that knowledge in a commercial setting and explore the impact it has on not only the individual, but also their job role and wider workplace.

I love proactively helping people to get and keep well in the workplace.”

What is the hardest part of Nursing?

“In terms of General Nursing, the hardest thing I have found is resourcing and bed availability. We are dealing with unwell humans, having to add space, staff and logistical issues into the mix never helps the situation.

With regards to OH nursing, the hardest part can be the combined relationship management between the individual, their employer and the OH provider. Getting the balance and relationship right can sometimes be tricky, but when you do – everyone benefits.”

What is the most rewarding thing about Nursing?

“In General Nursing, seeing people take the advice you have given them and improve is incredibly rewarding.

As an OH Nurse, I am in the perfect position to give individuals information and advice on how to look after themselves in order to get and keep themselves well. When they follow this advice and get better and their employer and family sees them getting better – this really is the best feeling ever!”

What would you say are the most important skills as a Nurse?

  • The ability to remain calm
  • Consistency
  • Clear communication skills
  • Non-judgemental
  • Being able to look at the bigger picture and not just at the issues/symptoms that are presented to you.
  • A good sense of humour!

Tell me about a funny moment in your career

“I don’t know where to start, there are so many! Particularly when working in A&E, everyday would bring a host of funny moments!

One funny moment which happened at a very tragic time, was when a very famous popstar came to give his sentiments and prayers in the aftermath of the Boxing Day Tsumami in 2004. Despite my strong advice against it, he insisted on entering the makeshift morgue we had created…upon entering he promptly fainted and me and his security guard had to carry him out!

Another moment which, although is not funny, stands out to me is a time I was at a football match. I am season ticket holder at Charlton Athletic FC and whilst watching them play against Watford a male spectator collapsed 3 rows behind me. I ended up performing CPR on him until the ambulance arrived which they said, most likely, saved his life. He is now back watching Charlton FC!”

Would you encourage others to go into Nursing?

“Yes definitely! It is tough and requires a lot of dedication, but it is incredibly rewarding as a career.

For anyone entering the field of Nursing, I would recommend getting as much variation as possible, it is so diverse and very hard to know what you like and love if you don’t try different areas within the field.

I have had such a broad career in lots of different fields within Nursing but through trying things out I feel like I have finally found my niche in OH Nursing.

I am so grateful for some of the opportunities I have had throughout my career, some of them have been down to being in the right place at the right time and some are through sheer grit and determination and making the opportunities myself. When I started as a Nurse I would never have been able to imagine the experience I have been lucky to have.

One thing that I have retained throughout all of my roles as a Nurse is my sense of humour; Nursing is a serious business so it’s important to have fun!”