International Nurses Day marks the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. Known as the 'Lady with the Lamp,' and considered as the founder of modern nursing, she still stands as an example of the importance of the profession today. On this day we celebrate the hard work and contributions of nurses by exploring some of their daily challenges and what can be done to help.
Here at Collins, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to celebrate the fantastic work of our Clinical Lead – Kerry Barham-Smith. Kerry has over 30 years’ experience in nursing, including 17 years at Chief Nursing Level, and is now a key part to our healthcare team.
Healthcare fit out is a complex form of construction. We appreciate that high-performance facilities rely on advanced building and design technologies – as well as smooth communication and understanding between the clients and ourselves. We therefore see the importance of having someone like Kerry within our Healthcare team to help liaise & interpret between healthcare and construction.
We had a chat with Kerry to find out more about her unique role within Collins and her experience of being a nurse…
What is your role at Collins Construction and how long have you been working here?
I joined Collins in October 2017 and my role is Clinical Lead. The role is completely unique within Collins and is one that I am constantly developing.
I predominantly work as a liaison between the client and Collins to improve communication and support with all interpretation, project planning, design and questions. If there is something that the client isn’t quite happy with, I will help the healthcare team find a viable alternative solution. I interpret all client requests to the building team and then translate their feedback back to the client – it’s basically like speaking two separate languages!
Once a project has been completed, I will always keep a good relationship with the client to ensure everything is working as it should be. I will go and visit them on a regular basis to check up on their site and make sure the staff are happy with their new space.
As well as this, I also get heavily involved in the document preparation for tenders and mid-bids. I prepare the competency document for any meetings with new contacts and will work with our Pre-Construction team to ensure all tenders are correct and out on time.
I am also responsible for organising and attending all client functions to build external relationships, networking to widen our business opportunities and using my own clinical contacts to help provide new business.
What does your average week look like?
My average week varies massively depending on what projects we have going on – which I love! If we have a lot of active projects, I will spend a lot of my time working from these sites, checking how everything is going clinically and also how the team are finding things. I also support all sites as requested with CCS inspection preparation, sharing ideas and helping to ensure they have relevant resources.
Random drug & alcohol testing is something that I support Tony Turner (Director of SHEQ) with too. This means I will go to the sites and help carry tests out on a random selection of Collins employees and sub-contractors.
Another part of my job, which I love, is looking after all of our staff - emotionally and physically. I will go round and check staff welfare on sites and in the office, and encourage anyone to come and chat to me about any problems they may have – it could be anything from a sore throat to a broken leg, concerns about their mental health or a family member, I’m here to help and advise. I quite often have at least a couple of employees coming to me every week for advice, whether that be a quick email, phone call or asking to meet up for a coffee to discuss something. I guess I am the Collins mum!
How did you go from Nursing to Construction?
I was the client for one of Collins projects back in 2016. I helped to develop the project alongside Collins and was in charge of overseeing the project from start to finish. Over the course of the project, I spent a lot of time with the Collins team getting everything developed and I built a strong relationship with them – they’re a lovely bunch! At the end of the project, I’d achieved all the accolades & awards within the healthcare sector that I had wanted to achieve, so I knew it was time for a new challenge. I originally wanted to go back into consultancy, but I went for some closing out drinks with the Collins Healthcare team to celebrate the completion of the project, and a few months later they suggested I join Collins. I love a challenge and a change and haven’t looked back.
What makes you ideal for this role?
I have over 30 years’ experience in nursing, including working in key areas we build like intensive care, cath labs and theatres, and 27 year’s experience running hospitals. This means I understand and know healthcare policies, procedures & quality control. With this experience, I also have a good network within the industry. Being the head of 3 different hospitals also means that I can work very closely with our Health & Safety team as I have had all of the relevant training.
Did you always want to be a nurse?
Yes, since I was little! Nurses didn’t have to go to University back when I wanted to qualify, so I did my nurse training at Guys once I left school. I spent 3 ½ years training to be a SRN (State Registered Nurse). After I qualified, it was then decided that all nurses had to get a diploma, so I studied for my Nursing Diploma alongside my first full-time job as a nurse. After that, I decided to study for my degree, whilst in full-time employment again – it wasn’t easy but I managed to graduate with a First Class Honours!
I then carried on to specialise in Intensive Care and also trained as an Aviation Medic – this meant that I could fly critically-ill patients all around the world. This would involve prepping the aircraft for the patient, checking they are safe to fly and then monitoring them for the whole flight.
Do you miss nursing now?
I loved my time as a nurse but I felt as though I had achieved everything I had wanted to and needed a new challenge. There are aspects I miss, however I love being able to help and support the Collins staff with clinical issues. Collins is a new and exciting challenge for me – it’s an innovative role, the team are so lovely to work with and I love learning new things on a daily basis.