What do you do, Andrea?

Andrea is a matron at Evelina London
Colourful question marks drawn by a child

Andrea Swan is a matron at Evelina LondonMay 2022

Why did you become a nurse?

Nursing chose me. After a successful career at Waterstones and Harrods, I'd taken six months out to go travelling. Sitting on a beautiful beach in Ko Samet, Thailand, it suddenly occurred to me that I should consider nursing on my return home.

I had met some nurses during my travels and although I do remember dressing up excitedly as a nurse aged three, I was still pretty surprised by this idea. I had never seriously considered it before. However, at that moment, I just knew this was the new plan.

Finding an internet hut on the beach, I found out King’s College London were holding open days for their nursing courses. I changed my flights so I could come back to London early to attend and was enrolled on their two-year paediatric nursing diploma - permitted as I have a previous degree in psychology and theology. By September, I had embarked on my training for a new career.

What was your nursing training like?

My first years of training were quite challenging, but I’m glad I persevered and stuck with it. I qualified aged 39 and remained anxious that the job was beyond me. Settling in with a supportive team really helped give me the confidence to develop and progress.

What do you enjoy about being a children's nurse?

Children's nursing is brilliant in so many ways. I’m always surprised by their resilience in difficult times and how often small things, such as wanting their teddy or favourite treats, are all that matter. I have learned many clinical skills and my powers of persuasion have also improved dramatically. I get to work with amazing families, at a very difficult time in their lives and we always hope they feel cared for too.

Another fabulous aspect of the job is seeing staff who were our students being promoted and knowing you helped them on their journey. This is a really rewarding moment in nursing, helping develop others.

I joined Evelina London in 2009 and I’ve worked in a variety of roles. I’ve been a clinical nurse specialist, ward manager and I’m currently on a secondment as matron for paediatric cardiac and respiratory services. This involves making sure that the wards and services are safe and supporting the team as well as speaking to families about any concerns. Every day is different and I’m constantly learning how to manage more effectively and think about any service improvements that could be made.

What skills did you learn from your previous career in retail that you also use in your nursing role?

My previous retail career has played a significant part in preparing me for management in the NHS, such as controlling budgets, recruitment, staff and patient welfare. I use those skills on a daily basis and I feel fortunate to have developed them before coming into nursing.

Have you had any nursing role models?

I was very fortunate to meet Dame Eileen Sills, the previous Guy’s and St Thomas’ Chief Nurse, before I joined the Trust. She took time to listen and encourage me which I have always appreciated. This taught me how important it is to give people your time, especially when you’re in a leadership role and how sometimes a small gesture can often have such long lasting consequences.

I’m also a big believer in always being respectful to people and remembering where you came from and what it’s like to be the student or new starter.

How do you feel about your decision to become a nurse?

I have no regrets and I’m so thankful for that revelation on the beach in Thailand. I absolutely love nursing. There are so many different opportunities to work with brilliantly talented and compassionate people. It’s a huge privilege to work alongside them and achieve the best for all our children and families.

Colourful question marks drawn by a child

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