After completing her nurse training in Inverness in 2002, Denise enlisted in the Royal Air Force. She passed out of RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire as a Corporal and was posted to RAF Wittering, where she spent 5 years working in orthopaedics at Peterborough Hospital working alongside civilian nursing teams.
She rose to the rank of Sergeant, and after being posted to the Aeromed Squadron – the medic team which flies to active war zones and repatriates injured service personnel - spent 7 months in Afghanistan and 2months in Iraq.
After 9 years’ service and 2 years with the Urgent Triage Division in the Ambulance Service, Denise joined Transform Hospital Group in 2015.
She recalls, “Initially, my role was Medical Advisor. I had responsibility for checking files, blood test results and scans, and signed off patients as fit for surgery. I also helped with pre-operative investigations for our clinic nurses and provided advice where it was needed.”
It wasn’t long until Denise moved on to a new role - National Lead Clinic Nurse. This meant that she managed all the clinic nurses in the company. “With a network of clinics across the UK, my job involved looking after a lot of nurses, both colleagues who were employed on a permanent basis and those on ‘bank’”, she comments. “I enjoyed that job for 3 years, giving guidance and support and helping to make sure we had adequate staff coverage. There was a lot of clinical governance involved too, and I was also a member of our Medical Advisory Committee during that time.”
Although she loved her job, when Denise became pregnant she knew that the travelling needed in the National Lead Clinic Nurse role wasn’t going to be compatible with the family life she wanted. “My maternity leave coincided with the first wave of COVID,” she remembers, “Transform Hospital Group then began to provide support for the health service by looking after patients who were unable to have treatment in NHS facilities, and I was fortunate enough to become Ward Manager at The Pines Hospital in Manchester. It was the perfect solution all round, and fitted in with my personal life so much better."
Denise says that she enjoys working on the ward in her more hospital-based role. “The team is in the same building, so it’s much easier to communicate with each other, which helps to motivate all of us. Many people have been with us for a number of years, and we also have some relatively new colleagues too, so it’s good to have a well-rounded mix of experience and skills.”
What would Denise say are the fundamental elements needed for a successful ward team? “When I took up this post, I could see that some changes were needed almost straight away. I tried to be physically available when the team needed me and I think it’s so important to get stuck in yourself – don’t expect anyone to do anything that you wouldn’t do.
“And simply being available to listen can’t be overestimated. I try to make sure that ideas and feedback were acted upon, so the members of the team are more likely to make suggestions - they believe that their input can help us be more effective and efficient. Once they knew that I would support them, they stepped up to the next level and are so motivated now. They help me to identify what needs changing, so that we can keep on improving.”
Denise says the biggest challenge for the ward team at The Pines came when they worked with their NHS counterparts for the first time. She remembers, “Everything happened so quickly - there was no time to lose at the start of the pandemic. We got everything organised as swiftly as we could, setting up and attending meetings with the NHS so that we could get the correct processes in place. The team came up with ideas about how we could best implement new procedures and worked on urgently-needed projects, like writing and delivering training guides. It certainly gave everyone more autonomy and responsibility, and there was a real sense of pulling together to reach our goals.”
That 'One Team' ethos is something that Denise believes is central to the culture at Transform Hospital Group. “As a working parent, I appreciate the flexibility that I have here. I feel that I’m trusted - I’m certainly not micromanaged, and have the opportunity to set my own agenda as I see fit. I can arrange my working week in a way that fits my home life, via compressed hours – yet I’m still able to give 100% at work and deliver the results I need to.
“I think what I like best about working here is that the company is very receptive if you want to make changes for the better. There’s no ‘we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work’ mentality, which is really refreshing.”