International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every year on the 12th May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. Our nurses at STEPS dedicate themselves to ensuring they deliver the best possible care to our clients from the moment they enter STEPS to the moment they leave it and every stage in between. This year, we highlight some of the remarkable differences our Nurses make to so many of our clients each day, and what led them to where they are today.

Darren Bracken (Clinical Nurse Educator)

Darren joined STEPS in August 2020 as Clinical Nurse Educator. Darren began his career as a qualified nurse at The Princess Royal Spinal Injuries Centre, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. His role was in the acute setting caring for a range of patients with Tetraplegia and Paraplegia, including newly acquired injuries and ventilated and tracheostomy patients and helping individuals come to terms with their injuries and begin the process of rehabilitation and rebuilding their lives.

He has a passion for this area of nursing and has always enjoyed the teaching aspect of his role, with patients, students and team members.

“I became interested in nursing initially in the 1980s during the Ethiopian crisis when thousands of people were dying of starvation, and TV news reports and documentaries stimulated me to want to train as a nurse.

However, I was young and already doing an apprenticeship and had a family and mortgage that put changing careers and re-training to be a nurse on the back burner, until 2003 when it became obvious, I would need to change careers due to the collapse in the cutlery industry in Sheffield. I began working in Neurorehabilitation and then Spinal Injuries at the Northern General Hospital and loved it immediately and I have never looked back.”

In November 2019 Darren began work with the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) as a SCI Nurse Specialist for the North East of England. He very much enjoyed this role and it enabled him to add to his knowledge and experience.

Darren now hopes to bring together all of his experiences from the last 18 years coupled with his passion and enthusiasm for nursing and education to help the development of the team and more importantly the clients here at STEPS.

“After many years working in Spinal Injuries in Sheffield I then became the SIA nurse specialist in the northeast before coming to STEPS as a Clinical Nurse Educator. My role is primarily a nurse, but one that supports the clinical team in developing their careers, educating them about all aspects of neurological conditions we see here in STEPS, and providing our clients with support and education about their spinal cord injury.  Understanding their injury as well as empowering them to see a positive future. In addition, I work within the STEPS training school, where we assist and train care teams for individuals in the transition from STEPS back into the community and active lives.

Over the years I have become very passionate about Spinal Cord Injury and my current role allows me to fulfil that passion by encouraging, educating, and promoting the spinal family and everyone who interacts within it. I have the pleasure of supporting a wonderful team of professionals and clients who always want to improve their journeys. I get to interact with so many professionals both here at STEPS and across a wide area of the country, enabling us to provide a truly holistic package for each client to achieve their goals. Seeing this progression and achievement is truly warming.”

Emma Morton (Senior Nurse)

Emma joined the STEPS nursing team in March 2020. She qualified as a nurse in 2009 and began her career at Bradford Royal Infirmary working in the elderly assessment unit. She then transferred to Barnsley Hospital and worked in a variety of medical units. Em then began specialising in elderly care, dementia care and worked in a variety of units including the stroke unit. She worked there for 6 years working her way around different departments of the hospital including, the medical assessment unit, cardiology, and continued to work with individuals following strokes. She also gained some valuable experience on the surgical unit.

Emma left Barnsley Hospital to work in nursing homes. She joined a nursing agency and worked in a variety of places looking after the elderly with Dementia, individuals with neurological conditions such as strokes, Parkinsons disease, spinal cord injuries, individuals with tracheostomies and those requiring assistance who had a variety of wounds.

“I became a nurse because it was a vocation I had always been interested in.  My uncle was a manager in a nursing home, and I would always go and talk with the residents from a very young age. I enjoyed it. My auntie and uncle were both nurses and hearing their stories from working on the wards always got me interested.   My Grandad had a Cerebral Vascular accident and went to the Stroke unit in Lincoln. When I visited, I was always asking questions. One day one of the nurses asked my age and expressed I would be able to apply for a job on the health care assistance bank. I did and at the age of 16 began my career working in the hospitals at weekends and when off from college. I worked with some amazing health carers and nurses who assisted me in my nursing journey and assisted me in being the Nurse I am today.  Nursing has been my only career and I have never regretted this. I could not imagine myself in any other career. 

I am a Senior Nurse at STEPS and currently work the night shifts. My main responsibilities are leading the shift, ensuring all clients have all their care and medication needs met. I assist in ensuring the shift runs smoothly.  I enjoy assisting my colleagues in learning new skills and assist them in progressing in their roles. I am there for support for all clients and support for my team. I assist with medication management. I enjoy being organised and at times this is where my OCD with organisation comes into play. You will always see me with a list. Lists are the way forward!

Working at STEPS is a unique opportunity. I began at STEPS as an agency nurse in February 2020 and then became a permanent STEPS team member post-COVID pandemic. I enjoy working with a variety of clients with different needs, and different types of injuries. I enjoy working with different team members who all have different and unique backgrounds, and we can all share our knowledge and skills. I enjoy talking with our clients and assisting them with their ongoing journeys at STEPS. No two clients are the same and each client has their own take on their rehabilitation Journey. Being a part of their journey and observing the progress they make is rewarding in itself.

I am passionate about being a nurse. I love my career. Nursing is more than just handing out medication. Nursing is about knowing my clients not just meeting their physical or medication needs but also assisting with listening, knowing my team, and knowing when extra support is required, knowing how to fix a bed when it is stuck in the wrong position was a quick learning curve!  Being a nurse does have some challenges. There are times I wonder if working in Tesco would be easier. But no nursing is my passion, and being a nurse is who I am and what I do.”

Chris Taylor (Nurse)

Chris completed a bachelor's degree in nursing science at The University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. He then completed his new-graduate program with Wide Bay Hospital & Health Services at Hervey Bay Base Hospital and continued work for one year on the medical ward. The medical ward was a 42-bed unit, included general adult nursing, housed a stroke unit and shared telemetry observations for cardiac patients with ICU. It also became the hub for Covid positive patients during the latter period of the pandemic. This provided experience with neuro, cardiac, respiratory, infectious and complex care patients. Before his career in the hospital, Chris worked as a care assistant in an aged care facility for over 6 years, mainly operating in high care and palliative care services. 

“I started my career in healthcare early on at the tender age of 19 as a healthcare assistant, I have a family member who was a midwife for 50 years, and my mother worked as a care coordinator. Not exactly knowing what I wanted - an opportunity presented itself to work as a healthcare assistant. In the 6 years in this role, I learned more about the sector and found a passion for caring for others, understanding the biomedical and holistic approach to health, and understanding healthcare systems. I discovered a pathway to further this understanding and I began my undergraduate studies in nursing. 

I love the family and community-oriented culture I have found at STEPS. I haven't worked at a place previously where the friendly and supportive atmosphere is so apparent. There are many specializations of roles at STEPS, this multi-disciplinary pool means you can always learn something and see how other professions exercise their skills. The nature of the job provides a close working relationship with the clients themselves and with their journey, understanding their insight and behaviours makes for a more personal experience, and seeing their progress is all the more rewarding.”

Joanna Fakayode (Lead Nurse)

Joanna started working in healthcare in 2002, initially looking after an elderly lady in her home and then as a health care assistant in a nursing home for elderly people with dementia. This inspired her to become a nurse and she started her training as an Adult Nurse at Kingston University in 2004.

“I didn't know what I wanted to do when I left school. I got a job in a nursing home because I needed a job and I fell in love with it. A year later I left to start my nursing training.

Once qualified she wanted to get as much experience in different areas of nursing as possible, so she spent time working in Trauma Orthopaedics, Medical Endocrine, Gastro-intestinal and Vascular surgical wards, ITU and Surgical Assessment. During this time Joanna also undertook further study around managing the acutely unwell individual and qualified as a Nursing Mentor.

Later Joanna moved to A&E and learnt a lot from working in Majors, Minors and Resus, before rotating onto the Acute Medical Unit. Joanna then decided to move up north and having settled on Sheffield she had the opportunity to work in Tissue Viability as part of the Pressure Ulcer Reduction Team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. She worked with ward staff across the Northern General, Royal Hallamshire, Weston Park and Jessops hospital sites, supporting patients with pressure ulcers, leg ulcers, surgical and other various wounds. During this time she was involved in various projects to reduce pressure ulcers and teaching staff. Joanna also completed a master’s module in Tissue Viability and Wound Management.

Joanna thoroughly enjoyed her time in Tissue Viability but after three years was ready for a new challenge and moved to the Walk-in Centre. However, she missed having ongoing involvement in patient care and after a year moved to a care home for people with complex needs, specialising in neurological conditions, brain and spinal injuries. Here she became Unit Manager for a ten bedded unit, Joanna encouraged client involvement, supported staff through changes in home management and ran pressure ulcer and dignity awareness activities. It was through working there that she found out about STEPS and came to an open day.

“I'm fortunate in that my role as lead nurse is very varied. It includes supporting staff on the floors, leading on and supporting practice improvement projects, audits and incident investigations. I am one of the team responsible for managing  feedback from our clients or staff. I am responsible for liaising with our amputee & spinal cord injury consultant & his clients, providing wound care advice. As part of the senior team, I am part of the on-call team, covering staff sickness, working with the therapy leads to promote Inter Disciplinary Team working. I carry out nurse supervisions, supporting our Head of Nursing. 

I enjoy delivering training on moving and handling, pressure ulcers and record keeping.

I love how individualised the approach is for each client at STEPS and how that pays off in the progress people make and the pride and joy they express in achieving their goals.”