Our Nurse Stories - Juliette Cosgrove

Juliette Cosgrove, Chief Nurse and Clinical Governance Director

Juliette started her nurse training in 1986 at Leeds General Infirmary and, after qualifying, initially worked as a neuro-surgical nurse before moving to intensive care, where she rose to the rank of nurse consultant. Her career then shifted towards improvement work, focused largely on safety and infection prevention and control.

After a two-year spell as chief nurse at Southport and Ormskirk Trust, she came to work at NHSP in March 2020 and was immediately deployed as chief nurse and deputy chief executive officer at the Nightingale Hospital in Manchester. After three incredibly busy months overseeing the first wave of Covid-19 patients, she returned to NHSP in July 2020 to settle back into her current role.

It all started…

…when I was 18 I had to go to hospital to have my appendix removed and while I was in there, I saw the work of the nurses and was fascinated by the work they did and the type of people they were. At that time, to qualify as a nurse was a three-year course with quite a lot of time in practice and I got paid during my training. As a person from a working class background, that was critical to me.

I remember…

…when I qualified, I worked on a neuro-surgical ward. It was very busy and the patients were very ill, but what I remember most is the teamwork. There was so much work to do and the only way we could get it done was to communicate really well with each other and help each other out.

  …one day I received a phone call – apparently from the hospital switchboard - to notify me of a potential disruption to the water supply and that I needed to fill all the baths with water. There were lots of baths and I duly got on with my task- much to the amusement of my colleagues who were all in on the joke! They eventually let me know after quite a lot of water had been ‘saved’.

Caring means…

…ensuring that every act I take is done with all the knowledge, skills and experience I have, whether that is managing a critically ill person who is on a ventilator and complex medication regime or just helping someone to get more comfortable in a chair.

I learnt this through my experience as a clinical nurse because I specialised in areas where the patients were very dependent to meet their physical needs - such as bathing, eating and mobilising - but also very ill from their disease or injury.

On courage:

Most of my career I have seen great people working together to deliver good treatment and care to patients. However, there have been occasions where that hasn’t happened and, in those situations, it takes courage to speak out.

The first time I had to speak out was when a member of a clinical team I was in was under a lot of personal pressure and advised a plan of care for a patient which wasn’t safe. I raised the issue and during the investigation, it was claimed I had fabricated the incident, which upset me at the time because I was junior and it could have affected me speaking up in the future. However, a senior nurse looked after me and told me I had to raise issues when I saw them, even though it may cause me some professional harm. Since then, I have always tried to promote a culture of speaking out and helping to support people through the process.

On resilience:

I think everyone working in healthcare has had a tough time during the pandemic. I had to draw very deeply on all my reserves during the first three to four weeks of my time at the Nightingale hospital [in Manchester in 2020]. I moved away from my family and worked 16 hours a day, every day. There were times I was so tired I couldn't even eat, but the team around me and the reason we were there kept me going.

I was also really proud of the team at NHSP and I knew they were working really hard to get staff to the hospital faster than ever before. 

On leadership:

I am one of four children from an Irish Catholic background and I have lots of cousins, uncles and aunts with an extensive network attached to us, so I have always felt part of a community. As a leader, I want my colleagues to feel part of a network that was inclusive, values each member and is bound together by a shared history, identity and purpose.

On skills:

What I find impressive in nurses are two things: communication skills and technical skills. When I started work in the Intensive Care Unit at Leeds General Infirmary, I was mentored by a senior sister called Janet.

Although I had worked in intensive care for a number of years, I had never met anyone as skilled as her. She was always allocated to care for the most poorly patients as she was always able to anticipate their clinical needs. If another nurse’s patient deteriorated, she was always the nurse who was called to support. When Janet was on shift, everybody felt safe.

Final thoughts

Nursing is a diverse, fascinating and rewarding career. There is lifelong learning and you will find friends for life. I came to work at NHSP as I knew there was more we could do to develop the nurses we had. So far, I have recruited three people who are going to work with me and the rest of the team to significantly improve how we educate and develop our fantastic workforce.

We think the next couple of years will see a radical change in our offer to NHSP’s Bank Members. 


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