Inspired Options are actively seeking UK Nurses with existing Australian Nursing Board registration

Pain Management Nurse

Wednesday, 06 December 2023

7 Day Health Service
A great ideal
Can the Government make it work?

Sarah Priddle RGN, ENB 100 (ITU course), Cert. Ed, BA (Hons) Health Studies


Sarah has been nursing for more than 18 years. She has successfully job shared and developed her role as a Pain Management Nurse for the last 10 years. She has particularly enjoyed the freedom that comes with a specialist nurse role.


RGN, ENB 100 (ITU course), Cert. Ed, BA (Hons) Health Studies, 4 modules of a MA Ed, Physical Examination Module from Nurse Practitioner degree, Western Medical Acupuncture in Clinical Practice Module from MSc Western Medical Acupuncture.


2 years medical ward, 5 years ITU, 11 years Pain Management

My Career

I went into nursing because I couldn’t think of what else to do. I had a vague notion of caring for people (probably because I was a reasonably bright girl in the 1980’s who was good at English and Biology). My mum suggested nursing because “I would always get a job” and “it would fit in with a family”. Degrees in nursing were dismissed by everyone I spoke to so despite gaining a place at Bristol Uni I opted for the slog of a traditional training. I understand some of the criticisms of changes in nurse education but when I look back it was a huge culture shock for an 18 year old……..after all, there are only so many times one needs to clean the commode wheels to be good at it.

Having said  that certain aspects of my training were good and, mum was right, it does fit in with a family. I also now have as interesting and challenging a job as many of my school friends who took more academic pathways. Who would have believed, however, that she would be so wrong about nurses always getting a job!

After I qualified I worked briefly on a medical ward in the hospital where I trained before moving back to my home town. Here I worked on another medical ward which was run along very traditional lines and many nursing rituals such as the “bath book” making tea for the consultant and calling ourselves by our surnames still existed. It was during this time that one of the Clinical Nurse Teachers (the first time round!) asked me what I was planning to do next. To be honest I hadn’t really given it much thought but when she suggested applying for a Health Studies degree course being run at a local college I thought “why not”. This was at a time where few nurses were doing degrees and this meant I didn’t have to compete for time or funding. It also put me ahead of the game (for a while at least) and was probably the biggest influence on my career. On the down side, it put me at odds with the philosophy of the ward I worked on. With hind sight I may have been guilty of throwing the baby out with the bed bath water. I have often reflected on this  and can not avoid concluding that however much I hated it at the time, the rigid routine and military type leadership resulted in a very efficient and safe ward.

My next job was on ITU which I loved. I know it’s a cliché, but it really was satisfying to be able to give high quality individualised care. Also, I’ve heard it said that people go into high dependency areas because they don’t want to talk to their patients. In contrast, I found that the continuity it affords means you really get to know your patient. And even if the patient is ventilated and sedated relatives may be with you almost the entire shift. During the 5 years I spent on ITU I completed my degree, did the ENB 100 and gained a Certificate in Education. I also had secondments to support the A25 (Surgical Nursing Course) and with the Resuscitation Nurse Specialist. As I type this I wonder how on earth I fitted it in but more importantly think how lucky I was to have so much support, both managerially and from my colleagues.

The secondment with the Resuscitation Nurse opened my eyes to the prospect of autonomy and when a similar position in Pain Management came up I decided to go for it. This was a jump from an E grade to a G grade and one I don’t think I could, or would have made without my degree. It also helped that I’d had some experience of what was expected from this sort of post. Having said that, it was a very steep learning curve and in the beginning I often felt out of my depth.

Early into my post I became pregnant and when I returned to work I commenced a job share post with one of my former colleagues from ITU. This has now survived over ten years and together we have moved from the more acute inpatient service to outpatients. I like to think that we have successfully developed this post and that this has considerably influenced the service as a whole. We now run nurse led clinics, provide acupuncture and lead group interventions. We have considerable freedom to develop both the nursing role and the service and have been involved in a number projects. Most recently I set up a service to teach patients and/or their relatives to carry out acupuncture for on-going pain problems in the home setting.

Study wise, I commenced a Masters in Education and completed 4 modules. However, having breast fed my way through my fourth assignment I knew when I became pregnant with our third child that I couldn’t continue. Will I go back to it? I have recently completed a module from a Masters in Western Scientific Acupuncture and am just about to take the OSCE for the Physical Examination module from the Nurse Practitioner degree.

This has demonstrated two things to me. Firstly, both of these are highly clinically relevant courses. The physical examination course in particular was fantastic and I would recommend it to all clinically based nurses. I can hardly believe how, in my haste to hold the pyjama top up to their satisfaction I have been so unquestioning about what my medical colleagues have actually been doing.  It has demystified medicine and given me a basic knowledge that all nurses should have. I know I can perform academically at Masters Level so if I do anything else it will be similarly practical. Secondly, the family/work/study combination is an extremely tough one and as someone once said to me, the last thing a person says on his death bed is rarely “I wish I’d spent more time at the office”.

What would I have done differently?

I honestly can’t think of anything, I’ve been very lucky

What advice would you offer?

  • Try and keep your eye on the ball. You may not know exactly what you want to do but chose directions which will keep your options open.
  • Be nice to students – they’ll pop up again and you don’t know what the situation will be.
  • If people say your face fits it may well be because it deserves to.
  • Be selective about projects. Chose things that will have maximum impact.

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

The clinical teacher who suggested I do my degree

What have you liked least about your working life?

  • Juggling
  • A certain lack of glamour (I still harbour secret fantasies about working behind the Clinique counter)

What have you enjoyed most?

The freedom I have in my current role and the people I have worked with along the way.

Was there any event which was pivotal in your career?

Making the move to my current job

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