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Above and beyond the call of duty

They say that nursing is a calling. Birmingham Community Healthcare nurses demonstrate their compassion and commitment to caring in everything they do - including using their skills and experience when not on duty.

Liz Blackham

With elderly people – in many cases frail and vulnerable – making up a growing proportion of the population, the role of nurses in the communities we serve becomes increasingly important.

Driving to work at Priestley Wharf from her home in the Black Country early one cold, wet morning, Liz Blackham noticed an elderly lady at a bus stop wearing only a nightdress and slippers.

More than three decades’ nursing experience told her something was wrong and so she turned her car around and approached.

Liz Blackham

“I explained I was a nurse and, when I asked where she was going, she said she was going to work – ‘cleaning.“I told her that I didn’t think it was a good idea for her to go to work dressed like that and asked her address so that I could take her back home.”

Considering the lady to be vulnerable, Liz helped her inside, made her comfortable and called the police. In the 20-minute wait for officers to arrive, Liz carried out basic medical checks and made her tea and toast.

“All of us are vulnerable at some part of our lives,” said Liz, whose job as a high intensity service user lead involves offering alternative sources of support to people who contact emergency services frequently and inappropriately – often due to issues around mental health, substance misuse or simple loneliness.

“The knowledge and skills I’ve acquired as a nurse over the years made me stop and investigate, which may have potentially stopped something untoward happening to the lady,” said Liz.

“I was struck by how trusting the lady was, which highlighted further her vulnerability and how easily she could have been exploited.”

Liz, who last year received the Queen's Nurse Award and is a trustee of the Institute of Ageing and Health (IAH) West Midlands, was moved to share the story with a wider audience after hearing of a similar incident in which an acquaintance of a colleague’s family had raised the alarm after – by sheer luck – spotting the BCHC employee’s elderly mother walking alone in her night clothes towards a river.

“I’m a nurse through and through and, for me, that means the care and safety of others are my main concern in all circumstances,” said Liz.

“But it’s up to each and every one of us, whatever the ‘day job’, to look out for people who may be vulnerable and make sure they have the support they need.”

BCHC medical director, and IAH chairman Dr Andrew Dayani said: “Liz embodies the qualities and values of an excellent clinician, in keeping with the BCHC vision and values.

“The plight of vulnerable adults is one which needs addressing and Liz, as a trustee of the IAHWM, helps to promote the best in elderly care.” 


Julie Bostock

Julie Bostock

School nurse practice teacher Julie Bostock has been formally honoured by the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) after leading the rescue of an elderly woman who was drowning.

Qualified life guard Julie was walking with a friend at Kingsbury Water Park when she noticed an elderly woman in the freezing, fast-flowing waters of the River Tame

She said: “I was looking along the river for wildlife and I thought I’d seen a dog in the water initially.  But I looked again and I realised it was a woman – quite frail and elderly - just about holding her face up above the water surface.

“I think God’s light was shining on her that day because it was quite a remote place and who should walk by and see her but a trained nurse who also happens to be a qualified life guard!”

Julie, who also trains and assesses fellow life guards, took command of the situation, asking her companion to find a branch sufficiently long to reach the woman from the bank.

“As life guards, we practice these scenarios and my training kicked in quite instinctively,” said the mother-of-two.

“The last thing you want is another person getting into difficulty in the water and so we told her to grab hold of the branch and managed to pull her towards us and haul her on to the bank.”

Julie was awarded a Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) certificate of merit and an RLSS Commonwealth letter of commendation, while her friend – Roy James – received a certificate of recognition for his part in the rescue.


Jayne Holland

Jayne Holland was shopping at her local supermarket when she noticed that a

woman had fallen in the car park.

“It was raining quite badly, and a lady had fallen and was unable to get up, sitting in a large

puddle,” she said. “It was very cold and she was obviously distressed. She was with her husband, but due to some mobility issues she couldn’t get up.

"I called for an ambulance, but because there were no life-threatening issues it took them ages to reach her.

Jayne Holland

"I ended up staying with her, caring for her for about two hours, until the ambulance came.”

With the lady in the safe hands of the paramedic crew, Jayne did not expect them to meet again. So she was delighted to receive a surprise phone call at work the following week, having told the lady what she did for a living while they waited together.

“It didn’t take long for someone to come and find me.” Jayne said.

“She was so thankful for me staying with her. She spent one night in hospital but has now been

discharged. She has invited me round for a cuppa!”