Date of release: 12 May 2021
While bereavement was never the obvious choice for Nikki when going into a caring profession, the Specialist Bereavement Nurse describes the role of supporting families to be “extremely rewarding.”
Nikki Farrington, who lives in Willenhall, always knew she wanted to be a nurse and describes it as “a true calling, albeit a cliché.” Having qualified within the Trust’s own School of Nursing, back in 2000 the plan was always to go into children’s nursing, this plan however changed due to limited vacancies and was instead offered a role on New Cross Hospital’s Neonatal Unit.
The 43-year-old explained: “I very anxious about neonatal to begin with – it seemed so clinically complex and the babies were so small and fragile, it was just terrifying! But in time I found my feet and fell in love with the speciality; I’ve been there 22 years now!”
A clinical nurse for the best part of her career, Nikki’s role meant caring for premature babies with a range of conditions – everything from cardiac conditions, jaundice, infections and complex respiratory complications. But on the terribly sad occasions when babies couldn’t be saved, Nikki realised the critical need for emotional support for parents and the difference the Trust could make to grieving families.
“The specialist bereavement and family support role, which I currently work in, was set up as secondment at first – as historically this would be carried out by a bereavement midwife rather than a neonatal nurse – but so far it has made huge leaps towards extending support outside of the hospital walls and implementing the National Bereavement Care Pathway standards of care which we as a Trust, have signed up to achieve. The hope going forward being that this becomes a permanent role within the Neonatal Unit”
“It’s about making sure the family, who are grieving following the loss of their baby, have everything they need, knowing they can pick the phone up to call me and that they are not alone. This role has led to being able to offer food vouchers for all of our parents alongside making improvements regarding the accommodation we offer to those who are resident on the hospital site. Staff education in bereavement has now been made mandatory and emotional support for the entire team following caring for a bereaved family is now embedded.”
But following the outbreak of COVID-19, Nikki and her colleagues had to think creatively on how they could offer the same emotional wellbeing support to parents and families (within the limits imposed by PPE and social-distancing).
The mum-of-one said: “COVID-19 has been really hard in that you can’t hold their hand or give them a hug while they are struggling, plus the face masks have meant you can’t convey empathy and understanding with your facial expressions. You had to vocalise it more and regularly communicate the words “I’m here for you.”
“Neonatal staff have worked incredibly hard to ensure the same high-quality care is given despite the restrictions; I’m really proud of the whole team.”
Reflecting on her career, the nurse remarks how a charity event in 2019, at which she was a guest speaker, was a stand-out moment.
“It was the annual RWT charity awards and I talked about the neonatal team and what we were trying to achieve with charitable funds to supporting grieving families. The audience seemed touched by emotion and people were coming up to me after saying how much they were affected by what I’d said. I just felt really proud of the team in that moment and proud to work alongside such dedicated nurses.”
When asked what International Nurses Day means to her, she replied: “Most nurses struggle with praise. They don’t see their achievements, they see it as simply doing their job, but they do deserve to be told how fantastic they are.
“The neonatal team have not faltered once. They’ve gone above and beyond for every single family in incredibly difficult situations. So today is about making them take that praise and saying well done!”
Thank you Nikki!