Gemma McCalmont

Gemma McCalmont

Wednesday 12th May 2021

To celebrate International Nurses Day 2021, we asked Structural Heart Specialist Nurse at James Cook Hospital, Gemma McCalmont, to write a blog about why she decided to become a nurse, how she became a specialist TAVI nurse, and what advice she would give to anyone thinking of becoming a nurse.

Here is what Gemma had to say:

"I've always wanted to work in healthcare, having loved science and biology when growing up. Towards the end of my A-Levels, I naturally gravitated towards nursing. For me, nursing is the perfect blend of hands-on patient care and the science that supports how we decide to deliver care. As a nurse, you are there for patients and their families. It's satisfying to know that the support you provide makes such a large difference to their experience of being in hospital.

I did my training in Huddersfield, and one of my many placements was in coronary care. I enjoyed this placement more than any other and knew it was an area I was keen to work in when I qualified. My lovely Grandad also had more than his fair share of heart problems when I was growing up, so perhaps that may have sparked an early interest that was cemented during my placement.

After I qualified, I moved back to the northeast and took a job as a staff nurse on the coronary care unit. After a few years, I became a specialist nurse in cardiac intervention. This built on my cardiology foundations but with more focus on certain cardiac conditions. When TAVI began in our hospital in 2009, my existing role evolved to incorporate this group of patients. TAVI soon grew rapidly and became my sole focus. For me, specialist nursing offers a real opportunity to shape services to ensure we are delivering the best care for our patients.

It gives me a huge amount of satisfaction to help people, and there are so many over the years who stand out. I always remember fondly one of our first ever patients to have TAVI in our hospital. Before being able to offer TAVI as a treatment, all we could offer these patients was medication to help the symptoms as the valve disease progresses. Years later, this man joined us at a celebration night we held to acknowledge the TAVI programme. He came with his wife and was the life and soul of the evening. He enjoyed sharing his experiences of the procedure and was later invited to London to a special heart valve event. I travelled down on the train with him and his wife, and it was amazing to see him enjoying the sights and sounds of the city. He told me that he thought he'd never get out of his house again at one point because his symptoms were so bad. Now, seeing him walking around London and hearing how he was back to bowling and his gardening was brilliant. He had more energy than me!

To anyone thinking of becoming a nurse, I would say they need to have a reasonable dose of grit, determination and a good sense of humour. Nursing isn't always an easy job. This year more than ever, has highlighted how physically and mentally demanding it is, but it is also a really rewarding role, giving a sense of satisfaction and pride when you do a good job. There is a huge amount of scope in nursing these days, so you can never get bored, and besides anything, the patients don't let you! They often keep me smiling during a difficult shift."