Celebrating International Nurses' Day: Meet some of our inspirational nurses

Montage pic for IND. Image shows nurses in their younger days - clockwise from top, Sue Brassington, a black and white image, Katie Milner, Zoe Newman aged six and wearing a nurses' uniform, and Julie Yanni. All adults are wearing nurses uniforms
Clockwise from top left: Sue Brassington, Katie Milner, Zoe Newman and Julie Yanni

Published 12 May 2022

Today is International Nurses’ Day, and a chance to celebrate the fantastic nurses we have working across our Trust.

From ward to board, nurses play a key role in the organisation every day – but each has a different story and a different journey.

Some of our senior nurses have shared their motivation, proudest moments, and advice for others following in their footsteps.

Sue Brassington, director of nursing, QEQM

If the truth be known, I didn’t have a grand plan to be a nurse. It just happened, as I was not sure what else to do. But it’s a decision that I have never regretted. My clinical background is cardiac nursing and I will never forget the awe I felt when I first saw patients having open heart surgery or complex interventional cardiology. Cardiac nursing allowed me to work in many different types of nursing from cardiac HDU to community heart failure and everything in between. That’s what's amazing about nursing. There are so many different areas to explore and try out.

I am proud every day for what we as nurses do. We think it’s normal – because it is to us, but really it’s not. We do amazing, privileged work every single day. We see sides of people no one else has seen – they may be afraid or in pain or just needing someone to hold their hand and say ‘I'm here, it’s ok’. What's more important than that?

My advice is to always be kind. Remember how people feel – both patients and staff. Try to do the right thing. Show the way and others will follow.

Katie Milner, associate director of nursing for professional workforce and CPD, Trust-wide

As a child, I wanted to be a nurse or a teacher. I’m not sure I could tell you why, but through a Saturday job that I loved I ended up initially in a career in retail at John Lewis on their management training programme. I worked as a section manager in their Oxford Street store and then as an assistant buyer. Here I found my love of working with people; on the shop floor I worked in the nursery department supporting new parents in buying the equipment they needed for their new arrival (my claim to fame is selling Kate Winslet a car seat). I felt that I wanted to do more and that selling items was not fulfilling so at 26 I dusted off my ambition to become a nurse and went back to university as a ‘mature student’. The first time I walked on to a ward or even into a hospital was my first day on placement and I loved it and have never looked back.

There have been so many proud moments but I would say that one of the best was as a band 5 nurse working on a stroke ward and helping so many patients find the ability to do things for themselves again, being there to comfort when they can’t and helping them to find the mental strength to try again. I also worked in palliative care and I am so proud to have been part of that speciality where we have the privilege to be with someone during their last moments and supporting their family and friends. 

I’d tell others to be proud that you want to be a nurse, never forget that you came into the profession because you care and want to help people. Keep that at the heart of all you do and however far up the ranks you travel you won’t go far wrong. We also need to support each other, it’s hard and tiring work and we all need help and support sometimes so be there for each other. Celebrate successes - your own and others, however big or small - this will help keep you and your colleagues motivated.

Zoe Newman, associate director of nursing for quality and fundamentals of care

Despite the photo of me aged six dressed as a nurse, I actually wanted to be a police officer, however I didn’t meet the height restriction! At 15 I was unwell and in hospital and I remember watching the nurses lead and motivate their teams and help the patients to get better, this is when I knew that I wanted to be a nurse. My family were surprised as I hated the sight of blood but this only made me more determined to succeed. Being a nurse is a privilege and I am so grateful I choose nursing as a career. My speciality is critical care but I have done a variety of roles in different organisations across the NHS before joining East Kent Hospitals two and a half years ago.

There are too many proud moments to count, but for me it’s not about winning awards, academic qualifications, promotion and status; it’s about reaching your potential and inspiring others to do the same. I am passionate about empowering our nursing teams to be creative, inspirational and brave, our patients are at the heart of everything we do and they deserve to receive outstanding care.

It’s a true honour to be a nurse and the opportunities now are diverse and exciting. Every day you can make a difference and although it is a cliché, no two days are ever the same so you will never be bored!

Dr Julie Yanni, deputy chief nurse, Trust-wide

I had no burning ambitions growing up to be a nurse. I applied for my nurse training at the age of 18 having not achieved the A-level grades for university, I wanted to live in London, have a social life and earn some money. From day one of my nurse training there has not been a single day I regretted that decision. Nursing is a career that continues to satisfy my natural curiosity. Critical care nursing was my chosen specialty but I have worked in many sectors, NHS and private, and in a multitude of roles including operational positions. I have a lot of respect for my operational colleagues, they have a tough job! I have been part of a team that built new hospitals and closed one that was not sustainable. I laid the ghost of my A-level disappointment to rest and went on to gain a first class degree and a PhD, in nursing of course.

I have not one but many proud moments, and there’s the point. Just the ability to nurse rewards and enriches life in a way so few professions can, even when times are tough. Among my proudest moments though have been seeing nurses at all levels grow and flourish. I have stepped out of many roles when the time is right knowing that those teams I have grown and built will flourish without me.

Every single day of your working life, nurses make a difference. Those differences may not be recorded in the history books, you will not be awarded medals or gongs for the things that you do. But do it in the right way, with kindness and compassion, and those small acts will always be remembered by your patients and their families when they are at their most vulnerable. Always ask your patients what matters to them and you will do the right thing.