Joanna’s inspiring career journey wins her a regional excellence award

A member of staff at Kettering General Hospital has won a regional NHS excellence award for her inspiring – and pioneering – six-year journey from healthcare assistant to newly qualified neonatal nurse.
And today (May 12) International Nurses’ Day, we are celebrating her achievement and telling her story to inspire members of our community to consider nursing as a career in the future.
Joanna Matthews, 43, from Kettering, has won a Recognising Excellence in Neonatal Services Award from the East Midlands Neonatal Operational Delivery Network.
The award followed an inspiring presentation she gave about her journey at regional webinar event hosted by Health Education England to an audience of colleagues and nursing leaders from across the region on March 22.
She won the award for the passionate and enthusiastic way she described her love of working with babies and their families and how that had translated into her career journey at Kettering General Hospital.
Joanna said: “I decided I wanted to work at Kettering General Hospital after I had a lovely experience of being looked after when I gave birth to my daughter Olivia in 2009.
“I had already worked as a nursery nurse and in a children’s home and at first I thought about becoming a midwife.
“To do that I needed to improve my maths and English so I went to Tresham Institute and achieved a GSCE grade B for English and the equivalent to C for maths.
“In 2016 I applied for a job as a Healthcare Assistant on the Neonatal Unit at KGH as a way to get some experience working at the hospital and I absolutely fell in love with working with babies and their families.
“As a healthcare assistant I did things like cleaning, equipment checks and helping the nurses, but I knew I wanted to be able to do more to support babies and their families.”
In 2017 KGH became one of the first hospitals in England to pioneer a new Nursing Associate post. This new career opportunity brought with it more responsibilities and skills and can be a stepping-stone to becoming a fully qualified NHS nurse. Joanna jumped at the chance and enrolled.
She said: “It was great – I developed a lot more skills and knowledge and worked all over the hospital, and in the community, gaining experience in paediatrics, theatre, and the labour ward.
“In 2019 I qualified as a Nursing Associate and it was fantastic. I could now support and advise families with their first babies with things like how to hold baby, breast feeding, using nappies, and all the important things like bonding with your baby.”
Joanna was then determined to keep going and becoming a fully qualified nurse so she enrolled on a two-year nursing degree course which she has just graduated from.
She said: “I am now really excited about starting my journey as a fully qualified neonatal nurse in our neonatal unit.
“I think nursing is fantastic and very satisfying and rewarding.  I would urge anyone considering a career in nursing to look into it. My own journey shows you can just keep building on your achievements and go on to more and more interesting work.”
“And I am already looking further ahead. I really want to work with the poorly babies in our intensive care cots so I am already looking at another course qualification in specialist nursing to be able to do that.”
In a letter informing Joanna of her award Wendy Copson, Deputy Lead Nurse for the East Midlands Neonatal Operational Delivery Network said: “It just remains for me, on behalf of the whole Network team, to congratulate you on your success and thank you for all of the hard work that you do within your team and beyond.
“You should be proud of the contribution you make, and I look forward to seeing the excellent work that you do for neonates and their families continue.”
KGH’s Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals, said: “We are all really proud of Joanna’s achievement. This is great recognition for the brilliant and compassionate care that she delivers every day and is very well deserved. She makes a real difference to our patients and their families with her professionalism, compassion and commitment.”

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