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Nursing a joined-up vision, powered by experience

Introducing St Luke’s Deputy Director Clinical Services Tricia Davis

Tricia Davis is enormously proud to call herself a nurse. Her long career has seen her gather a wealth of diverse experience in health, social care and charity work, as well as climb the management ladder, but she never underestimates the value of her solid foundation in community nursing.

Even now, in her post as St Luke’s Deputy Director Clinical Services, Tricia believes it’s important for her to make time for hands-on clinical practice to keep her skills up to date, remind herself where her journey began and get as close as she can to the patient experience.

Her dogged focus on delivering good care, when and where it’s needed, is standing her in good stead as she casts fresh eyes on how St Luke’s clinical team operates, its daily challenges, and its interaction with the wider health and care system.

“It is always the little things that make a big impact on patient care,” says Tricia, who started her nurse training in Bristol, 43 years ago in 1980, working in the city’s acute hospitals. After qualifying she quickly transferred into the area that really interested her – community nursing – later becoming a health visitor.

“I loved health visiting! It was a privilege to be involved in the complexities of family life.  Although I often found myself working in child safeguarding, this was then balanced with the joy of visiting new parents and their beautiful babies.”

Tricia’s team leaders quickly spotted her leadership qualities.

“My first step into management was in locality health visiting but that very quickly extended to the wider community services of district nursing, school nursing, community midwifery and Macmillan nurses.”

When their three children were small, Tricia and her husband moved to Downderry in southeast Cornwall where she continued working in NHS locality management and was especially delighted to be part of the management team that opened the then new community hospital in Clemo Road, Liskeard in 2004.

An exciting career change saw Tricia return to Bristol where she became CEO of a homeless charity in 2009, where she gathered more experience working alongside some of the city’s big thinkers on projects such as The Happiness Project, Sustainable housing developments with straw bale housing, restorative justice initiatives and forensic mental health projects.

In 2017, Tricia returned to her community nursing roots working for Sirona – the not-for-profit community health provider for Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North East Somerset – where Tricia was excited to be appointed to the project team for the redevelopment of the former Frenchay Hospital site in Bristol. Regrettably this project was halted and instead Tricia found herself leading a social care division which included care homes and older people’s supported living schemes… just as the first Covid lockdown came into force.

Whilst this was a terrible time for all of us in health and social care, it did give the opportunity to bring every bit of my leadership experience to the fore,” says Tricia.

“Care homes had a terrible experience in those early months but pulling on our established community networks we were able to do a lot of begging and borrowing from lots of good people. We sourced everything from basic PPE, extra freezers to store homemade meals in case the cook didn’t make it in, iPads and smart phones to keep residents in contact with their loved ones… along with a local sewing club who made very colourful ‘Care Home Scrubs’ to raise everyone spirits!

I’m so proud to say that we went through the peak of Covid without a single case of Covid on any of our eight sites, which was a phenomenal testament to the dedication of the staff.”

With compassion to the fore, they still found ways for families to be at the bedside of their dying loved ones.

“There were so many national horror stories of people dying without their loved ones by their side,” recalls Tricia. “But we never operated that way. Some family members couldn’t be present because of their own health vulnerabilities which we totally understood, but it was never our directive that they couldn’t be at the bedside.

My cherished memory is how the staff treated residents like they were their own family. It was humbling to see and be part of.”

Post-Covid saw southeast Cornwall calling Tricia and her husband again. She saw the job at St Luke’s advertised and was appointed 15 months ago in her full-time role that supports Director of Clinical Services and Deputy CEO George Lillie.

At St Luke’s I feel I can bring my varied and diverse experiences. I don’t have a clinical nurse specialist background, but I don’t think that inhibits me doing my job well. My clinical leads have all the amazing ‘techie’ knowledge, and my job is to make sure they and their teams have the resources need to deliver the best care to our patients.

“My first year at St Luke’s has flown by. I had a very full induction into the organisation. The first 100 days I spent submerged in clinical practice and spending time with our Urgent Care Service, specialist unit and hospital teams. I arrived after the incredible challenge of the pandemic, just as we were going into that space of living with Covid.”

Tricia is a strong believer in the concept of operating as “One Big Team”, with easy communication and crossover between urgent care, inpatient and hospital clinicians.

One of the first new initiatives she instigated is the virtual triage call that happens at 2pm each day with representation from all the clinical teams. Her aim was to make sure that all departments had a forum to discuss the most urgent cases of that day, with teams supporting each other in clinical decision.

It’s about prioritising, identifying clinical risk and clarity of decision making. I am not the expert on clinical matters, but I will have a good feel for risk. I facilitate discussion and we solve things together.”

Tricia is very much aware of big challenges in the wider health and social care system, and the knock-on effect this has on St Luke’s frontline staff.

It’s a very tricky time to be in health and social care. Our staff identify, on a daily basis, things that they are having to do differently because of pressures in the system.”

There are certainly plenty of challenges to address but, as she continues to bring fresh insights, Tricia is thrilled to receive regular confirmation of the organisation’s extraordinary reputation for end of life care and the place St Luke’s holds in the heart of the community it serves.

“Every day I hear ‘thank you’ or receive letters and notes of thanks from people who have taken the time to write to us. Every day our amazing teams are reminded of the remarkable difference that St Luke’s makes, which is why we feel so privileged to do our jobs.