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International Nurses Day at Medway Maritime Hospital


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Today is International Nurses' Day which celebrates the contribution medical staff make to society through their dedication and hard work.

To mark this special occasion, reporter Juliana Cruz Lima spent a day with Rajini Sivaraman – a nurse, senior sister, ward manager, and a mother-of-two on duty at Medway Maritime Hospital.

Medway Maritime Hospital nurse Rajini Sivaraman talks about the importance of International Nurses Day

Rajini, who has worked at the Gillingham hospital since 2018, takes care of Victory Ward where patients are transferred from emergency wards and where they go to recover from operations.

Born in Kerala, southern India, she had a childhood aspiration of becoming a teacher, but later decided to follow in her sister's footsteps as a nurse.

She said: "I'm a person who likes to help others, I'm friendly with everyone, and I don't think I'm that good to be a doctor, so ended up going for nursing.

"It is easier to find a job, to settle down, and I felt like that would give me the satisfaction of doing something good for the public."

Rajini, who is in her 40s, got her qualification in 2000 and worked in private hospitals in India and Singapore until 2006, when she decided to build a new life and career in the UK.

We spent a morning with Rajini Siuvaraman in Victory Ward, at Medway Maritime Hospital, where she is a ward manager
We spent a morning with Rajini Siuvaraman in Victory Ward, at Medway Maritime Hospital, where she is a ward manager

She was not very happy with the scope of the job she used to have, as everything was "too automatic" by mainly giving medication to patients and following doctors' orders. She felt like she was not helping people as much as she wished to.

However, her arrival in the UK was not easy as she felt a big shock when she joined the NHS, compared to the private healthcare systems in India and Singapore.

She said: "When I came here, I started in a nursing home and I started from the basics. It gave me a wider perspective into what nursing is like in the UK. It wasn't just about giving medication to your patients.

"I started getting more knowledge and understanding about what the role of a nurse is like, from risk assessment, hygiene needs, making and implementing a care plan, how to communicate with the patients and maintaining their dignity.

"But above all, I have been enjoying how nurses are treated very fairly in this country. We are all respected as individuals and I have had very supportive colleagues, especially when I was starting out. I am also able to take on different roles to support the service, not just being stuck in the same thing for the rest of my life."

Victory Ward's nurses during their morning handover meeting
Victory Ward's nurses during their morning handover meeting

Among almost 4,000 members of staff, Rajini has made her name known since joining the hospital, as her team of 25 nurses and 18 daily patients respect her work.

The senior sister works four intense days a week, from 7.30am to 8.30pm. Fortunately, she said to be lucky to have a husband, who is also a nurse, and two children, aged 10 and 15, who support her.

The mum-of-two starts her day shortly after 5am by ensuring her kids' lunch boxes are good to go before she leaves for work.

Her shift begins at 7.30am with a handover meeting, which is when the morning team learns what has happened during the night hours.

Yesterday, for instance, Victory Ward received eight new patients overnight, which meant Rajini and her team had to effectively manage patient discharges to make sure everyone receives a bed and quality care.

Rajini and her patient Robert, who is eternally grateful for all her work
Rajini and her patient Robert, who is eternally grateful for all her work

Her day then follows into a series of managerial work, which she compared to housekeeping, saying: "It's like my home, so I like to keep it tidy".

It includes carrying spot checks around the ward, ensuring patients and staff's satisfaction and safety, and guaranteeing continuous quality of care to everyone.

She said: "Work can be really fast-paced and it can be hard to get to know the system at first as the NHS is always at change.

"Something can happen overnight or we can face shortages of staff.

"From the day our patient comes in to the day they are discharged, everyone – from physiotherapists, doctors, nurses, and the kitchen staff – all play a big role and we must play it well.

"It’s a chain reaction and we always need to ensure we’re keeping our best work and standards to make sure we don’t disrupt this chain. Therefore, communication is key. As nurses, we must also be really good listeners and treat everybody with respect and in the same way you want to be treated."

The ward manager's schedule is then marked by numerous meetings and audits throughout the day, to make sure Victory Ward is nice and tidy.

Victory Ward, Medway Maritime Hospital
Victory Ward, Medway Maritime Hospital

Despite being fairly new to the managing role, you cannot tell Rajini is only 18 months into the job.

Patient Robert was one of her biggest fans. The 59-year-old was on his 17th day at Victory Ward, but could not be more grateful for the ward manager who has been taking care of him.

He said: "When I first came in, it was truly terrifying because I didn't know what happened to me or why.

"But through the reassurance of Rajini and her nursing staff I am making a good recovery.

"Compared to doctors, we build a bond with them. They keep everybody well-accommodated and smiling. Nurses bring a bit of laughter and joy to our days. People don't realise the importance they have. They are fantastic and brighten up the place."

Speaking to Rajini, he added: "So all I have to say to you is 'thank you'! Nice and simple. There are no better words to describe. Thank you so very much for all you do."

The "thank you" cards received by Rajini and her team
The "thank you" cards received by Rajini and her team

Although it is a date to celebrate, Rajini explained she still has a lot of work to do on International Nurses' Day, but will definitely shower her team with love and plenty of chocolate.

She added: "The best part of being a nurse is the job satisfaction and sense of fulfilment when I bring positive change to people's lives. I just look back and think I've done something really good to my community.

"It is a day to thank all the nurses, remember those who lost their lives during Covid, and to say we are really like angels.

"We play a big role in the health sector. Without nurses I don't think hospitals or any clinical unit would function."

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