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Critical Care Sister and Overseas Specialist Volunteer with 'The Life Foundation'

Wednesday, 06 December 2023

7 Day Health Service
A great ideal
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Abi Roberts Dip He Adult Nurse, BSc(Hons) Acute Care


Abi is a Ward Sister in Critical Care who has decided to give use some of her holiday allowance to volunteer with 'The Life Foundation' in Oltania, Romania.


Dip He Adult Nurse
BSc (hons) Acute Care
Post graduate certificate in Critical Care
Post graduate course Mentorship


10 months Acute Medical Ward,
4 years Cardiothoracic Critical Care,
2 weeks as a special volunteer with The Life Foundation.

My Career

After qualifying I began working on an Acute Medical Ward at the hospital where I did the majority of my training. Whilst there I became quite disillusioned by the low staffing levels, lack of opportunities for further learning/qualifications and lack of senior support.

I bode my time until an opportunity arose in a critical care environment (which I had always been interested in from my nurse training). Once there I was able to progress from junior staff nurse to Acting sister, to Sister. I was also able to pursue my education and was supported in gaining my BSc, Critical Care and mentorship courses.

I was also supported by my management and peers in my desire to volunteer in Romania with disabled/ previously institutionalised children and adults.

What would I have done differently?

I would have been more dedicated during my initial nurse training. I began this 6 months before my 18th birthday and was not at all dedicated. Although I think this was a period of adjustment that I had to go through to become who I am today.

Working within critical care I have become a perfectionist, always striving to do my best, being competitive with myself to improve myself to give the best possible care to my patients.

What advice would you offer?

Learn as much as you can, take every opportunity that is offered to you. If at first you are not able to get the job you want, get your head down, work hard, be dedicated, and do your best and that perfect job will arrive!

Enjoy your home life, travel lots and use your skills for things outside of your normal practice. Volunteer!

Who offered you the best career advice... and did you take it?

My mother is also a Registered Nurse; I'm not sure that she gave me any specific advice but along the way she could definitely empathise with what I was going through within my training and give me hints and tips. I'm not sure I took notice of this at the time, but I'm sure some of this must have soaked in!

What have you liked least about your working life?

On the whole I enjoy the benefits of working shifts, I usually work 11.5 hour shifts and if I group them together I can get 3-4 days off a week, however I have missed out on a lot of occasions with friends due to working nights and weekends and not being able to swap shifts.

Also with increased knowledge I become frustrated when I know things are not being done correctly, or in the patients (or child/resident's in the case of Romania) best interest. Where possible I will take this up with the most senior person until I can rectify the situation - however in some situations there is just nothing you can do and accepting this is extremely hard.

What have you enjoyed most?

Working within the NHS means that I get around 7weeks annual leave a year- which doesn't have to coincide with any recognised holidays, this made volunteering for 2 weeks in the summer even easier as I was able to take 2 weeks off to volunteer and still have time to have a 'proper' holiday afterwards (which was well needed).

I have most enjoyed being able to use my skills outside of normal adult nursing as a volunteer. Although at the time I did not have any professional experience with children I found that a lot of the skills I have learnt throughout my career are transferable. In relation to working within the 'family type' homes in Romania; another nurse friend and I were able to offer nutritional advice, wound care advice, analgesic advice and behavioural advice... amongst many other things. As nurses I believe that there is something within us that just makes us want to 'care' for other human beings... giving the children cuddles and love was extremely therapeutic for all involved (especially us!) - miles away from working in our normal critical care clinical areas (where patients are barely even touched without a pair of gloves!).

Favourite websites

The Life Foundation
The website of the organisation I volunteered with last summer.
All Nurses
International Nursing Forums. (Based in the USA)
British Journal of Neuroscience Nursing
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Further Information

Telephone: 01625 501101

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