24 Hours with Clare Stiles

08 February 2018

Clare is the team leader for child health in NHS Shetland and recently became a Queen’s Nurse. She lives on the island of Yell.

My alarm rings… at 6am. After watering seedlings and vegetables in the greenhouse and feeding my pet tortoise, I usually leave home at 7.30am.

I am responsible for… managing a team of health visitors (HVs), including one community children’s nurse, a hospital children’s nurse, a small children’s outpatient department, a school nurse (SN)and three part-time school staff nurses. My role is divided evenly (2.5 days per week) between managing the team, and clinical practice as a health visitor with my own caseload across five remote islands off Shetland mainland. 

I enjoy the journeys to work… as I can chat with friends, read a book or use the time to reflect. I also get to see otters and seals, and occasionally watch killer whales from the deck. Clinical days can involve a 16-mile drive to catch a ferry to the more remote islands of Unst or Fetlar. On management days, I walk the half-mile to get the Shetland mainland ferry, and then drive 30 miles to my office in the Gilbert Bain Hospital, Lerwick. 

On clinical days… I arrive at the relevant health centre at 9am, hold a short clinic then set out on home visits. This can involve driving on roads with sheep and Shetland ponies, and walking across fields. I’ll munch an apple in my car as I may be 10 miles from the health centre by lunchtime. I may lead meetings and could have a student HV with me as I’m currently the only practice teacher in Shetland for HVs and SNs. I use any spare minutes to liaise with colleagues such as resident GPs. 

Management days consist of… appraisals and supervision meetings with staff and include caseload management. As well as team meetings, I attend groups on areas such as transport, food poverty and perinatal mental health. Other aspects I look after include payroll, recruitment, risk management, and service redesign.

The best part of my job… is being able to help and support families with a variety of problems. I also love providing learning opportunities to students, and enjoy supporting staff. Working clinically and in management allows me to try out changes, and know how far resources will go.

Location challenges… include when I’m on an island all day with no mobile phone coverage or emails. Our remote and rural position also makes recruitment hard, but we’re addressing that. Travel can easily be disrupted by weather: if the winds are too high, the Aberdeen ferry can be cancelled, and we could be without fresh fruit and veg. Most of us have supplies in the freezer for such times. Professional isolation can be an issue, so we make strenuous efforts to support each other by sharing learning.

Post-work… after eating together, my husband and I spend time gardening or doing chores before watching Masterchef or Gardeners’ World. We go to bed between 11pm and 12am.