Sarah Rushbrooke

I started my nursing career in September 1986 by training at Shotley Bridge General Hospital in County Durham. In those days the School of Nursing was part of the hospital and I ‘lived-in’ as a resident of the nursing home for three years. The nursing home had its own ‘Matron’ Jenny, who was the housekeeper and general security guard!

My first clinical placement was on an acute medical ward – Ward 19 – and the sister there was to make such an unforgettable impression on me that I consider her my ‘Nurse Hero’.

Sister Joan James ran a very tight ship. Students feared her, doctors were in awe of her and the patients loved her. Her reputation for excellent patient care meant that although fearful, every student nurse wanted to work on that ward.

It was my first ever time working on a hospital ward as a fresh-faced, naive 18 year old and I was terrified!

Sister James’ stewardship and guidance taught me more than I could ever learn from any text book

However, Sister James’ stewardship and guidance taught me more than I could ever learn from any text book and what she demonstrated to me about compassion and kindness has never left me. Even after 31 years I strive every day to emulate her.

Sister James went on to be become an Oncology Nurse Specialist specialising in haematology and it was tragic and ironic that she herself developed cancer and unfortunately passed away.

At her funeral there were so many nurses who she has taught and ‘grown’ and we celebrated the huge impact she had on us all. It was very fitting to see that the trust acknowledged her significant contribution to patient care by naming the new chemotherapy day unit after her – her legacy loves on.

Joan James was an inspiration and a role model and I am so proud that I got to work with her and call her my ‘Nurse Hero’.