Angela, Parkinson's Disease Specialist Nurse, NHS Western Isles

I'm Angela, a Parkinson's disease specialist nurse working with NHS Western Isles.

Tell us what you did when you left school?

When I left school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I got my 7 O-level grades and my 3 Highers. I couldn’t decide between nursing, going into the police, or becoming a teacher.

I decided to go to college for a year to do computer programming, which I really enjoyed!

When I left college, I got a job with a local glazing company. While I was working, I did another course at the college on word processing so I could learn admin skills. That meant I could also pick up some of the letters that the glazing company needed done.

What attracted you to working in the NHS?

6 months into working for the local glazing firm, I was speaking to a nurse who was quite inspirational. I decided that that’s what I wanted to do: I wanted to be a nurse!

How did you get started with the NHS?

I applied for the nurse training locally and got accepted 6 months later. That meant 18 months of training on the island and 18 months in Inverness. For the 18 months in Stornoway, it was 8 weeks in college and then 16 weeks in geriatrics, 12 weeks in medical, 12 weeks in surgical, 4 weeks in the community and then 4 weeks with the community psychiatric team.

On the mainland, it was the same structure. When I met the inspiring community nurse-midwife in Skye, that’s when I knew that was the role I wanted to do. That’s where I felt I could make the biggest difference.

Can you describe your day-to-day role?

I’m currently the Parkinson’s disease specialist nurse for NHS Western Isles. My role is quite varied, which I enjoy because each day is different.

A lot of my work is community based, so I go out to see people and assess them in their own homes. I also do clinics at the hospital occasionally.

There’s also Telemedicine every 5 weeks, where we link up with Glasgow and the consultant neurologist there to save people having to travel. There’s plenty of admin work, so I can still use my computer skills from many years ago!

What skills are the most important for you to do your job well?

There’s quite a lot of skills, but one of the most important is communication and being able to understand what people are saying.

You have to be able to listen, because it’s not about what you think that person needs. It’s about listening to what their needs are and picking up on cues so you can pass that on to other health professionals.

Being an advocate for the patient is so important. Making sure that their voices are heard and that their needs are met where at all possible is very important.

I’m learning all the time, you never stop learning. There are new conditions cropping up all the time, there are conditions that I don’t know about. I find that really interesting. I still have a thirst for knowledge!

Also, being kind to people and being kind to yourself.

What advice would you give a school leaver thinking about working in the NHS?

There are lots of jobs in the NHS. I started off as a student nurse, thinking I’d work in a hospital. I ended up working in the community and being a midwife. I was able to travel with those skills.

You’re not tied to your role! You can develop in your role or you can change your mind.

There’s no wrong or right way. Just do what you would like to do!

I applied for 30 jobs and got one interview. The interview was for a position in Germany! It was a good interview and I decided to go for it. I lived in Germany for 18 months and I loved it. It was great for me to experience a different culture and a different language. It opened my eyes to living and working off the island.

When I was in Germany, I applied for midwifery and got in. I did my midwifery training and then got a job in Skye as a community nurse-midwife. I was there for 13 years and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Then I came back to the island. I worked in a nursing home for a year, in occupational health for about 5 years, and for the past 4 years I’ve been the Parkinson’s disease nurse specialist for NHS Western Isles.

What makes you proud to be a key worker during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Both the service and I have had to adapt to meet the needs of the patients at these very strange times. By that I mean there were no face-to-face reviews allowed, which I found difficult.

When you’re a Parkinson’s nurse you have to assess people’s movement, so having to do that by telephone is hard! We got Telemedicine set up, which really helped. If patients had a laptop or tablet camera, I could see them. If patients didn’t have a laptop or tablet, I was able to help them get one and enable them to see me or the consultant neurologist.

Another thing that makes me proud is the fact that I was a vaccinator. I was able to help out with the mass vaccination clinics.

Do you have any advice for school leavers considering a role with the NHS?

As long as you’re doing what makes you happy, that’s the important thing! I’ve always been happy in my jobs.

I’ve changed jobs a lot in my life, but as long as I was happy and healthy that was all that was important to me.

It’s important to know that there is no wrong path, just as long as you’re happy, healthy and kind to each other.