To find out about some of the research going on at Guy’s and St Thomas’, our intern Jasmine Ebanks has interviewed some of our researchers about their work and their career path into research.

She spoke to Fiona Hibberts, who is a consultant nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and leads the COVID-Nurse study.

After completing her training to be a nurse in 1995, Fiona Hibberts went on to work briefly in the community, then cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery and general surgery. Taking her academic career forward she started her Master’s degree which involved a final project using action research in staff development. She is now a consultant nurse, and Head of the Nightingale Academy at Guy’s and St Thomas’.

What first interested you in nursing?

“I think it was the more rounded view that a nurse brings that attracted me – that holistic view that drew me into nursing.  I think as I started to do my degree in nursing, I understood more in psychology, sociology, social policy, psychology as well as biology, I thought what I really loved is looking at the person as a whole. Caring for someone when they’re at their most vulnerable in life is very special”

Initially at Guy’s and St Thomas’, Fiona became a colorectal nurse specialist. There she was recognized for her invaluable work leading improvement projects for patients and services. She received a Lammy award from Lambeth Council, was named Gastrointestinal/IBD Nurse of the Year from the British Journal of Nursing and received an Evening Standard Award of Merit, which was nominated by one of her patients.

After unfortunately having her PhD funding pulled in 2008, Fiona continued her clinical career, becoming a consultant nurse, an endoscopist, prescriber and advanced nurse practitioner in the following years. In 2017, she stepped away from a solely clinical role to establish the Nightingale Academy at Guy’s and St Thomas’, reigniting her interest in research. Fiona then completed an MRes and is now enrolling her doctoral studies for the second time. She has since become research active again as a Principal Investigator for the  COVID-Nurse trial run by the University of Exeter. The COVID-Nurse trial is a national randomized controlled trial looking at the nursing care of patients with COVID, on in patient wards. It is a novel study and Guy’s and St Thomas’ is one of fourteen sites nationally.

Fiona speaks about what being a part of the COVID-Nurse trial is like: “COVID-Nurse has been an incredible learning ground and opportunity for me personally. I’ve very much appreciated the importance of having people alongside you, to nurture you, encourage you and when you take a step wrong direction – to just put you back on the path again. It’s so exciting to be part of a national study, and the opportunity it’s brought for our staff, our patients and indeed our trust to be part of it has been incredible. I hope this is only the beginning.”

What advice would you give your past self before the pandemic?

“I think the advice I would give is to look after yourself. When you’re in a caring job and you’re constantly looking out for others, developing others, whether it’s your staff or your patients, you always forget yourself and your own needs, and you know whether that’s something like taking a break and getting a drink, or more serious. Number two is as a leader, to look after my team and ensure that they’re looking after themselves too. Finally, those tiny, noticeable things. Checking in with your team and asking them how they’re doing or how their mum is or if they were particularly looking forward to doing something or going somewhere; having that interpersonal element is so important to building and appreciating your team.”

Fiona’s research is looking at huddles in health care: “We started using them years ago as a team communication method like huddles before a rugby or football game, aimed at providing an honest space for health professionals to ask questions and bring up concerns about patients and care to improve safety. Issues in care can then be anticipated so that patient safety isn’t compromised.”

Her ethnographic study will look at the culture of huddles, their contribution to healthcare and how they can be optimized in acute clinical units.

What advice would you give to nurses interested in research?

“Research is the beginning, the middle and the end. It should be part of every meeting and every conversation. It’s both the foundation and the future – I think nurses should find out about what research is going on in your area, getting involved in it, becoming a champion of research and leading in evidence-based practice.”

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