'Be prepared to smile, laugh, cry and then smile again' - Leeds nursing staff open up about their role for International Nurses Day

To mark International Nurses Day today, Leeds nurses - including one set of twins - who work at the city’s hospital trust have shed light on their role and and how it has been affected by the challenges of the past year.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 11:45 am
Rachel Carroll, staff nurse at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. Picture: Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust

Rachel Carroll, staff nurse on ward L40 of the Leeds Children’s Hospital, said at the beginning of the pandemic, she felt like everyone’s perceptions of nursing changed “dramatically”.

“It seemed that everywhere you went there was a newfound appreciation of nurses,” she said, as well as patients’ families becoming more appreciative of the little things they do.

But she added: “However I do think that now the pandemic has continued for over a year, people are tending to revert back to how it was prior to Covid-19.”

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Elina Kabwe, theatre education practitioner at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. Picture: Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust

Rachel said she has wanted to be a nurse “for as long as I can remember” and is “absolutely in love with my job”.

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The best things include “seeing children recover, supporting families at some of the hardest times of their lives and making babies smile”.

For anyone considering a career in nursing, she added: “Be prepared to smile, laugh, cry and then smile again. Get used to coming home from work feeling utterly drained after giving everything you have to your patients and their families but then get up the next morning wanting to do it all over again.”

Dhionis and Marineo Llanaj, staff nurses at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. Picture: Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust

It was September 12 2001 - the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks - that Elina Kabwe got on a plane from Zambia to work as a theatre nurse in the UK.

She said: “My family were extremely worried and it took a long time to get my flight to the UK because of all the extra security but I was determined to get here.”

She said stark cultural differences - such eye contact when talking is considered rude in Zambia whereas the opposite is true here - took some getting used but she went on to complete 15 years in paediatric theatres, before landing a role as clinical educator, harnessing her “passion for sharing and teaching”.

When the pandemic broke out and many theatre staff had to take up new roles in critical care, Elina played a key part in helping to train the staff in the new skills they’d need to care for the “very sick patients”.

She said seeing the level of public support for nurses and key workers was uplifting during the “challenging time” and added: “Knowing we’ve had the support from the local community meant we could rise to the challenge and continue providing the best care for our patients.”

Identical twins Dhionis and Marineo Llanaj both work in neurology at Leeds General Infirmary - which they admit sometimes confuses colleagues.

They were both inspired to follow a career in teaching after their older brother Rivdan had an accident when he was 11, and they were three, which led to him spending much of his life in and out of hospital. They now help care for him as he has been left with a lifelong tracheostomy, epilepsy and right-side paralysis.

Marineo said: “Our brother’s story inspired us to become nurses and help others in the same way that nurses had helped our brother.”

They came to the UK in 2018 after qualifying as registered nurses in their home country of Albania and after a stint working in care homes, joined LTHT as clinical support workers in neuroscience and ICU.

“Working as qualified nurses and contributing to providing the best possible care to our vulnerable patients, especially during the pandemic, is hard to describe”, said Marineo.

Praising the Trust’s focus on staff well-being, he added: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, LTHT provided us with a place to stay so we wouldn’t have to endanger the safety of our vulnerable brother. This means a lot to us and reassures us that we are in safe hands.”