QNI London Carers Champion Day

I attended the QNI Carer’s Champion day in London on the 19th November 2014, which looked to create more nurse champions and raise awareness of both young carer’s and adult carer’s, as well as young adult carer’s, in between!

I arrived the day before at 2pm to visit the Houses of Parliament and other sites within Greater London. Seeing the Houses of Parliament brought home to me how big I want to make a change. I don’t just want to make a change locally or in my region, I want to make a change nationally! Something I will push to do most definitely. I accept the challenge!

After a good night’s sleep, it was time to wake early for the day’s events. It would be fair to say that the bed was just far too comfy for me to get up at 6am, so instead I got up at 7 instead and headed down for breakfast. Breakfast is important to me so I made sure I had all I could, toast, cornflakes, a full English and a fruit salad later, I was stuffed! Definitely food to influence my thoughts. Having only been to London once before, I then had the job of trying to flag down a taxi, not an easy job, but eventually I did and I, along with my boyfriend (known as “supporter!”) travelled to the venue. We were met by the lovely Jennie, who had organised this event and the one in Birmingham, doing a great job in the process! With a very quick pick up of my super, important badge, it was time to go into the room where I’d hopefully be able to raise awareness of carer’s and their struggles and challenges. I met another young carer, who’s speech was very poignant, powerful and most definitely passionate. The event began at 10am, sharp, just how I like it, being a perfectionist! We had an introduction from Dr Crystal Oldman, the Chief Executive of the QNI. I had the chance to be introduced to her before the carer’s event got underway and she was an amazing individual. A lot of passion for nursing and importantly for helping the most vulnerable in our society, which includes carer’s. Her story about having an insight into what being a carer struck me about how caring isn’t always going to be permanent, at least for most of us carer’s. Then came the wonderful Wendy Nicholson, a brilliant individual, who again is very passionate about carer’s. We really do need professionals to be passionate about us, otherwise who else will? Wendy talked about policy development and practice, both very important things in terms of my Social Work course at university. Her words really intrigued me. I could sit and listen to her all day, as her commitment oozes through in her words and most certainly her actions. She is a very big inspiration to me and she will most certainly be in my thank you list at the end of the year. Without Wendy, I wouldn’t be doing the things I am doing now, in terms of my opportunities to raise awareness of carer’s. After Wendy came Dame Philippa Russell, another individual who has inspired me, simply for her amazing carer’s story and her commitment to making change. She talked about many things, mental health, working with the elderly, young carers…the list goes on. A very thought-provoking chat to say the least, reiterating what Dr Crystal Oldman and Wendy Nicholson had said previously. Dame Philippa is such a good speaker so I had to follow on from her, after a refreshment break of course. Unfortunately she had to leave early, but I am definitely going to network with her again, to try to gain some more experience. Whilst everyone else went off for their snacks and hot drinks, I sat in my seat, scared and nervous. I’d spoken in Birmingham and was complimented on my public speaking skills, but this time I felt like I’d have to push it up a notch. Then in came Felicity, who has a very important job, of which I can’t remember! (I’m sorry, it isn’t professional of me!). We talked about my aspirations and my caring role, among other things. I was very starstruck, just as I had been with Dame Philippa Russell, when I’d met her at the Birmingham Champion Day back in October. I thought to myself ‘I’m brushing shoulders with the big people now, I must be doing something right!”.

As people started coming back in, it was my turn. I was given a short introduction and off I went. I can’t remember how long I spoke for, probably a bit longer than I was supposed to, I improvised a little and tried to not rely on my speech (which didn’t happen!). After what felt like a while, I thanked everyone for listening and went to sit back down in my seat, a round of applause in my ears. Still a lot to learn in terms of my public speaking skills I think. Also a note to myself, never use transitions on your Powerpoint slides, they take up too much time and in my opinion don’t make you look any more professional!Next came the other young carer, all I can say is it was emotional. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. Her story was very powerful. She did an excellent job and I feel I can learn some skills relating to my public speaking from her! A big well done to her, if she reads this, you inspired me, as did everyone else there today!Before lunch something happened that I really was not expecting, I’m not one for big surprises and this one certainly was. It did get me emotional, again! Wendy presented me and the other young carer with awards from the Department of Health and SAPHNA for our contributions to raising awareness of carer’s, for school nurses. A big honour to accept, but feel I don’t deserve it really, I haven’t been doing it for long! Less than a year to be exact. After a standing ovation it was lunch time. Getting the award was definitely the highlight of my day.

I won’t get as enthusiastic as I did when I mentioned Birmingham’s lunch, but it was equally as nice! A buffet added a nice touch to the day. Lunch passed by quickly as I had a lot of people come up to me, asking me to help them and congratulating me on my speech. Networking is such a great way to meet new people and gain new experiences and opportunities! The more you talk to people the better. I kept saying ‘I’ve been a carer so nothing is impossible!’. In the afternoon we had talks from a range of different nursing professionals about how their pledges were coming along. The talks relating to higher education really struck me and brought me to my second pledge – whereby I will be asking my university if they have modules or sessions on the different courses that relate to carer’s. After a quick refreshment break, a free photographs and a face to face thank you to Wendy, it was time to make my pledge, which I mentioned above. It was nice to see the chitter chatter of conversations as the pledges were being made by all of the nurses, a very delightful thing to hear. Unfortunately we couldn’t do the Q and A session, which I was a little disappointed at but all in all it was a brilliant day. One that I hope I can replicate over and over because I think I’m starting to really enjoy speaking at conferences, because you might as well get your face somewhere rather than nowhere, as I say anyway!

A big thank you to the following people – Jennie Whitford, Dr Crystal Oldman and Anne Pearson from the QNI and also the woman who kept tweeting and taking pictures, her name escapes me, I was sitting next to her! Also Wendy Nicholson as without her I wouldn’t have even started my stint as a professional public speaker (I’m kidding of course, I’m no seasoned professional!) and Sharon from SAPHNA, who has supported my aspirations without us even meeting. (We must meet at some point!).

In one sentence today filled me with hope, aspiration and inspiration that professionals do care about carer’s and the more I network the more people I can make carer aware.

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