People's History of the NHS


Portrait of Natalie Whitton

I’m currently working as matron for community wards within Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust.

I qualified as a registered nurse in 2007. I had my first staff nurse role within this trust on a medical rotation. Soon after that, in 2009 I got my first nursing band six post where I was working on respiratory ward. We had a lot of changes to the management team and structure during my time as ward sister, on that ward. We did go into special measures for a period of time. We had a really strong manager that came in and together we built up different types of programmes for the ward team and got the ward out of special measures. Also during that period of time I applied for and was successful in running the winter ward band seven; so I was an acting band seven from winter 2011 until early 2012.

Following that I went on to my band six post on the respiratory ward. In the summer of 2012 I applied for clinical nurse practitioner and was successful in that and spent a couple of years in the (NHS) Trust. I left the trust and went off to Worcester to continue to be a clinical nurse practitioner. I was there for about eighteen months and then I was practically head-hunted by Matron Justine Irish within Sandwell and West Birmingham to apply for the band seven ward manager post, within the community wards, within the Trust. I was successful in that and came back to the Trust in 2017.

This year I applied for and was successful in obtaining a band 8 matron post which is an interim post to cover maternity for a twelve month period of time. So, all in all, during my eleven years as a nurse I’ve been quite successful in the job roles that I’ve done in Sandwell and West Birmingham Trust.

I feel like I’ve been able to achieve so much, much more than I’d ever dreamed that I’d achieve throughout my career. I’ve had lots of support through colleagues, my peers, managers that I’ve had, staff that have come and gone throughout my NHS career so I think it’s just been amazing.

I have had aunties that have also been nurses. They stayed as staff nurses throughout their career, they’ve retired now but it’s been good to have them as my role models. Watching them get up and go to work every day. Sometimes I’d go into work with them and be in the wards when they were finishing a shift - that made me want to be a nurse - so they inspired me to be the nurse that I am today.

My daughter is now going to University in January to be a paediatric nurse, so I think we’re going to have a whole family of nurses to come throughout the family generations!

My grandparents came here first and then my mom and my brother - they were born here in England and my auntie was actually left in Jamaica and she came here when she was twelve years old. She went to school here but then I think she was sixteen when she started to do her nursing training so then I think she came to this actual hospital (during audio recording at City Hospital on Dudley Road, Birmingham) between here and Selly Oak before it was Queen Elizabeth.

So my aunt did her training in between the two hospitals. I think she actually lived in the nursing home. She could probably tell me quite a few stories as well! Two of her daughters are nurses, so there’s me and then my daughter who’s doing her training now, so it’s quite nice…

Before I did my training I worked in residential homes as a care assistant. I was always helping the district nursing with dressings and stuff, and they were always saying ‘you’re really good at this so why don’t you go and do your nurses training’, so that’s where it all started for me really.

My grandad was a diabetic and ended up injuring his foot but he didn’t realise. That became infected and he got gangrene in his leg and suffered with that for a while until it was amputated. He was living with my auntie and (my) auntie would have to dress his leg - the smell - it was very offensive! Me and my cousins would be the ones who were there - it didn’t matter how bad the smell was we were there, helping. I think it’s something that we were always destined to do, really.

I think I live and breathe the NHS... If anybody says anything bad about the NHS I get really defensive! You don’t know what goes on, there’s a lot of stuff on the news and in the press that is not actually true. I think until you come out and see what it’s like for the nurses on the ground it’s pretty hard not to believe everything you hear really…

You do get some positive stories (about the NHS in the press) but the negative always outweigh the positives, really.

All photographs copyright of Inès Elsa Dalal © 2019 Commissioned by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, 2018. No photographs or text may be referenced or published elsewhere, without prior permission.

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