Year of the Nurse: Anthony Swan, from painting and decorating to leading change as a Sue Ryder Nurse

After eight years working in the painting and decorating industry, Anthony Swan, 29, realised he had missed his true vocation and made the tough decision to retrain as a nurse. Now employed as a Registered Nurse at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice in Leeds, he has teamed up with NHS England to help drive a new approach to person-centred care and has just appeared in a film produced by the NHS to help spread the message among nursing staff.

Anthony Swan - A Registered Nurse at Wheatfields.

2020 has been designated as International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife by the World Health Assembly, to shine a light on the crucial contributions of nurses and midwives in achieving universal health coverage, while coinciding with the 200th anniversary of one of the founders of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.

At Sue Ryder, we are also celebrating the exceptional, person-centred care and rehabilitation Sue Ryder Nurses provide to our patients, families and carers through their inspirational palliative, neurological and bereavement support, day in and day out.

This is Anthony's nursing story.

Starting at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice

Anthony started at Sue Ryder’s Wheatfields Hospice in September 2019 and is part of a team who provide expert palliative care to people with life-limiting conditions, combining their specialist medical care for managing pain and other symptoms with additional emotional, practical and spiritual support. 

Now that he is part of the Wheatfields team, Anthony is relishing the opportunity to pursue his long-term interest in how the language used in healthcare can impact the patient experience.

"It’s something I have been working on for quite a few years. I started thinking more about language when I was painting and decorating in nursing homes. I was hearing certain words and seeing how people were treated and I wanted to do something about it. It was a real motivation for me to get through my nursing training so I would be taken seriously and have the opportunity to influence policy."

Anthony is now working with NHS England as part of a drive to improve person-centred care by changing the language used in healthcare through education and promotion of best practice and has recently appeared in a film which he hopes will show what’s possible.

‘It’s not just about how we talk to the patient and their relatives, it’s also how we talk to each other as staff’

"It’s all about person-centred care. It’s not just about how we talk to the patient and their relatives, it’s also how we talk to each other as staff. I delivered a presentation at the end of my training on person-centred care to the new first years aimed at getting them to think about how something they say could impact on both the patient and the relatives."

For Anthony, this is a long term goal he wants to achieve across care services, hoping the NHS film will further inspire others to see that they can also have a genuine impact on developments in care.

"It’s about changing people’s mind sets. The NHS film will promote that message to nursing staff at all levels and show that anyone can lead change."

You can watch the film below, to see how newly qualified nurses are being supported to implement shared decision making at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice.

‘I feel like I was always meant to work in care’

Just a few years ago, life was very different for Anthony, who did an apprenticeship in painting and decorating when he left school before becoming self-employed. But, after his experience caring for a family member, Anthony started to really consider working in care in a way which he hadn't before.

"I feel like I was always meant to work in care. My mum’s a nurse and my whole family had been telling me it was the career for me, but it wasn’t until I was looking after my aunty at a hospice in London that I started thinking about it more seriously."

"The nurses there said I was a natural and that I should think about it as a career. There was a young woman at the hospice who apparently hadn’t spoken to anyone in two weeks, but she ended up speaking to me and I think that whole experience was the push I needed to go into care."

‘There was a young woman at the hospice who apparently hadn’t spoken to anyone in two weeks but she ended up speaking to me’

A view of Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice from the front entrance
Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice.

From there, Anthony secured a day’s volunteering opportunity at a residential home and the home quickly offered him a full-time job so he was able to progress through the qualifications he needed to further his career.

"From there I went to work at Sue Ryder’s Cuerden Hall in Preston - a specialist neurological centre - to broaden my experience. There was an open day at Royal Preston Hospital for a new nursing course at Bolton University. After that I started my training within a couple of month, so it’s been quite a journey."

A Sue Ryder Nurse walking down the hall at a hospice

‘I absolutely love it at Wheatfields – it has been my dream job to work in a hospice’

Anthony was presented with a special award at the end of his nursing training in recognition of his efforts to ensure patients always had the best possible care.

"I’m dyslexic so it was really tough for me doing a degree and I think they wanted to recognise that. Hopefully it will show others in a similar position that it is possible and encourage them to give it a go. Things could easily have gone the other way for me when I was younger, so I’m really proud of where I am now."

"I absolutely love it at Wheatfields – it has been my dream job to work in a hospice. The support is amazing and the staff are great. We get along really well, so it’s a great team and the patients and families can sense that."

Find out further information on Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, the specialist palliative care they provide and ways you can help support them to continue to be there when it matters.