“Training and development is not just something that’s put on a plaque on the wall. It actually happens. And it’s achieved by the dedicated teaching staff, mentors and qualified neonatal nursing staff.”
There’s one thing that gives staff nurse Ru Makoni a buzz when she goes on duty at the University College Hospital neonatal unit. “When one of the mums asks if I’ll be looking after her baby in the nursery, that’s what makes my day,” she said, ”because they want you and they’re entrusting you to care for their baby. That’s the reward.”
Nursing doesn’t just run in Ru’s family, it gallops – her mother, brother, aunts and cousins are all nurses. But she’s the only one to choose paediatrics, following her passion to work with children.
She started work at the neonatal unit at in the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson wing in September 2014, having qualified in children’s nursing at Middlesex University. One year on she’s nearly finished her special care and high dependency course, while some of those she trained with have not even started.
“I think this shows how the hospital values its nurses and wants them to improve and develop,” she said. Ask her how the course is going and she’s quick to reply. “It’s beautiful. It really links your theory to your practice.” The course is classroom-based with clinical competencies that have to be achieved on the unit. Ru said the credit from the course will help improve her practice and enhance her career prospects.
But she’s not stopping there. Once finished, she will go on to take an intensive care course and then has plans to do her masters. “Training and development is not just something that’s put on a plaque on the wall at University College Hospital,” she said. “It actually happens. And it’s achieved by the dedicated teaching staff, mentors and qualified neonatal nursing staff.”
The level 3 neonatal unit cares for the most premature and sick babies, some born as early as 23 weeks and weighing just 500 grammes. “To work in neonatal care,” Ru explained, “you have to be gentle and strong, caring and understanding, focused and a good listener, and be able to work as part of a team.
“But it’s not all about the babies. It’s a partnership in care with the parents. We have to help them emotionally and physically. We need to encourage them to take care of themselves, so that they are able to look after their babies and then take them home.
“Sometimes the parents are a bit scared to touch their babies because they’re so small. They think if they touch them, they’ll hurt them. We encourage them to hold and cuddle them, to let the baby feel their touch, recognise their smell and hear their heartbeat. It’s very important for the parents – dads too – and for the babies.”
Ru said she thought the hospital’s standard of clinical practice was very high. She said the working environment was good, colleagues were supportive and worked well together as a team, and staff were well-supported by their managers.
She said she would recommend University College Hospital “as a place where our work as nurses is recognised, valued and rewarded”. She thought many people joined the hospital because it had been recommended to them, or because they’d heard about its world-renowned reputation. For example, she said, UCLH was one of only two trusts in London to have full accreditation under the UNICEF children’s charity’s Baby-Friendly Initiative.
So has children’s nursing turned out as she thought? Ru said: “I went into nursing because I wanted to be caring and I wanted to help people. In that respect it’s what I thought it was going to be.
“But in other respects it’s different to my expectations. It is emotional. But in the job you learn to be empathetic. You are there to care, develop and empower. I thought I would be crying all the time but it’s not like that. You’ve got to boost the parents’ morale, so you need to be strong.”
Before applying to UCLH, Ru said she thought that it would be a challenge, but one she would be up for, having previously served in the Royal Air Force.
“I love it here,” she said. “I never not want to come into work. It has been a journey emotionally - exciting, challenging and empowering.”
And it’s just beginning. “I am a very ambitious person. I want to progress in my career. Having obtained a first class honours BSc in child nursing, it’s only sensible for me to embrace the opportunities that are offered at UCLH.”