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Natasha McVey – Student nurse
Natasha McVey, 23, is a fourth-year student nurse currently on a healthcare of the elderly ward placement at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham.
"My role as a CQC specialist advisor has given my nursing career a fantastic head start, and has boosted my professional as well as personal confidence no end.
I've gained insights I wouldn't be exposed to during nursing training alone, and feel fortunate to have this experience before qualifying.
Finding out about the role
In summer 2013 I received a recruitment email from CQC asking for student nurses to get involved with hospital inspection teams as specialist advisors.
It was part of the new-wave style of inspections, to include specialist teams and clinicians of all levels – from senior consultants down to student nurses, plus members of the public.
I felt the role would be a chance to see hospital inspections from CQC's perspective. Plus, I have high standards of quality of care and I looked forward to the opportunity to be able to discover how the organisation went about judging quality of care.
As my four-year nursing course has longer annual leave periods, I'd be able to fit inspections around my time off and around shifts. And obviously I saw that getting paid for inspections would definitely be helpful, too.
Training before an inspection
After being accepted onto the specialist advisors' programme, I took part in a webinar, which went through the inspection process and what to expect.
However, most of the training was done on the first day of my first inspection in December 2013 – an acute hospital in London lasting three days.
There were about 40 of us on the inspection team, which was divided into smaller sub teams of five to six people. In our sub teams we were given the documentation we needed and discussed the key lines of enquiry.
My role on inspections
My role on inspections includes chatting to patients about their care, and trying to see the experience from their perspective. Then I'll talk to staff nurses, medical professionals and more senior staff in one area to get a fuller picture. We take notes of everything that's said, then feedback to our sub team.
Nursing training hasn't exposed me to management terminology or hospital processes – being a specialist advisor has. That's why having now taken part in 13 inspections, my role has developed. I feel able to talk to matrons or doctors about leadership, their executive team, and their understanding about what's going on in the hospital trust.
Mixing with senior staff as fellow team members has also helped me at work. Before, I'd have felt less confident approaching a consultant – and asked a qualified nurse to talk to them or come with me. But I'm now totally comfortable having these conversations.
Using what I'm good at
Whereas traditionally in practice I might be viewed as 'just a student nurse', I appreciate being treated as an equal member of the inspection team with a valuable input to make.
CQC inspection teams work well because they try to understand the value each member can bring. Much of my knowledge is around nursing documentation. Part of my student nurse training has involved a documentation auditing project, so on inspections I'll focus on nursing records to see if patients have clinical observations taken regularly, for example.
Taking things back to work
There's so much I can take back to my own nursing practice – and not just insider knowledge about how best to prepare for CQC inspections.
It's hard not to see examples of good practice and wonder if they could translate to your ward. I'm also now more at ease challenging what is considered the norm in an area having seen it done differently in so many other hospitals.
Great for networking
Being around nurses who have taken different paths in nursing has been inspirational in terms of thinking about my own career progression.
As I often see the same people on inspection teams, I've also started to build valuable networks. For example, one learning disability nurse consultant now emails me about conferences I'd be interested in attending. These are the connections I'd never have without my CQC work.
Invaluable for student nurses
Inspections are tiring and full-on – particularly your first one, which may be a little overwhelming. But when you've had a chance to reflect on it afterwards you'll recognise a new wealth of knowledge.
Becoming a student nurse specialist advisor isn't for everyone. Obviously you must be interested in inspections, and not everyone is. But if you're enthusiastic about learning new things, committed to making sure patients receive the best possible care and that staff work in a supportive environment, there are huge plus points.
You'll have a real impact on an acute trust, as well as gain deeper insights into best practice. Your confidence will be boosted and you'll get valuable networking opportunities. These factors make becoming a CQC specialist advisor a no-brainer if you're really serious about your nursing career."
- Last updated:
- 29 May 2017