A night in the life of an Out of Hours Nurse

30 Oct 2015 Sam Brown

Whilst most people are asleep, our amazing Out of Hours Nursing Team whizzes around the city supporting housebound patients who need urgent healthcare in their own homes.

We spoke to Team Leader Jackie Butterworth to find out what a typical night involves.

“I’ve been working as an Out of Hours nurse for over 19 years. I started as a junior nurse when my children were very small. As my children grew older, I carried on Out of Hours nursing, whilst my husband and I simultaneously fostered 27 babies! Although lots of people think the hours are unsociable, I think they’re a great way to fit a career around family life.

The start of a very busy evening
“My evening shift starts at 6pm, when our day community nursing and Rapid Response teams hand over their patient cases. A quick phone call gives me all the information I need. The rest of the team join me at 7pm and I spend the first part of the evening allocating patient visits. As well as providing frontline care to patients, I also manage a team of eight, which I find very rewarding.

Once everyone is clear which visits they are doing, I handle phone calls for the first part of the evening. It’s my job to decide which patients should be prioritised first, based on their level of need, and what resources we should use to give them appropriate care.

Whizzing around the city, supporting vulnerable patients
As we approach 1am, I stop triaging phone calls and visit patients instead. The sort of healthcare we provide typically includes managing the pain and symptoms of dying patients, providing wound care, assisting with night time medication routines and blocked catheters, and helping infirm people who have fallen but not suffered a serious injury. People tend to think that we only look after older people, but our patients come from every walk of life, and every age group and cultural background. We cover the whole geographical area of Bristol so I could be in Whitchurch one moment, and Filton the next!

As the night progresses, I make one urgent Rapid Response assessment, a lady who is poorly with a chest infection and at risk of going into hospital. I ensure she has the right medication, take her observations and make her comfortable. I visit two patients who have blocked catheters and who need help. I also see a lady who has fallen and who now has a nasty skin tear. I dress her wound by using steristrips and make sure she is comfortable before heading off into the night. Sometimes I finish my shift at 2am, and on other evenings I work until 7am. Once the end of the night comes, I go home, have a hot drink and try and relax a bit before falling asleep at either 3am or 8am, depending on when I’ve finished. I then sleep for about 6 or 7 hours before getting up.

Condensed hours = more time for my family
People often ask me how I cope with the erratic sleep patterns but over the years I’ve just got used to it and I find it works really well for me. I work 37.5 hours spread over just four evenings so the job is a really great way of ensuring I have lots of time to spend with my family. I belong to the Avon Centre of the Caravan Club, so when
not working, my husband and I are away – even in the winter, caravanning somewhere in the UK.

Best part of the job? Our patients!
Without doubt the best part of my job is the contact with patients. The satisfaction I get from knowing I’ve done a great job is really brilliant. The team are also amazing – really supportive and great fun – and that makes my role worthwhile too. I love my job and wouldn’t swap it for the world.”

Are you interested in working for Bristol Community Health? Check out our jobs page for more information.