Catherine Best

Clinical Nurse Specialist, Autonomic Unit, National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery, London

After a nursing career spent mainly in the neurosciences, I am a Clinical Nurse Specialist in a Neurological Hospital looking after people with disorders of their autonomic nervous system. I lead a team of nurses providing diagnostic and treatment care to patients with a variety of autonomic disorders throughout the UK.

The disorders we see range from intermittent problems that cause disability but can be resolved to complex lifelong or terminal conditions. This is unique speciality and in our work we find ourselves making clinical decisions and devising novel care and treatment strategies. We rely on using our experience and knowledge and that of the team as there is no autonomic nursing book (yet). This is challenging especially for nurses when they first join the service.

The service, although demanding is very rewarding. I love the patient contact (which is greater than when I was a ward sister), I enjoy the variety of acute and chronic care needs and I relish the continual learning opportunities. The niche nature of the service means the team spends a considerable amount of time on the edge of our comfort zone professionally and the team has had to works closely to navigate this position safely. I worry about being able to continue to navigate safely and maintaining these close relationships with the current NHS pressures.

The edges of our comfort zone have become even more blurred as we managed to keep the service running during the pandemic when some of the team were redeployed at times. My own redeployment helped give me a different perspective and appreciation of my team and the service.

Having reassessed the priorities for the service, I am excited to be joining the Inspire, Improve programme. I am not quite sure what the next year will bring, which itself is a little uncomfortable, however I am looking forward to challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone in order to learn. I anticipate I will find kindred spirits within the group but will learn from every participant. I look forward to the prospect of learning new ways to work, lead and inspire my team.

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