Media Release

NHS at 70: Claire’s a fine example of knowledge, experience and dedication in Team QEH

One of our top nurses has just completed her 33rd year with QEH.

Matron/deputy associate chief nurse Claire Kent has been with us since day one of her training in 1985. And what’s more, even though her time at the bedside is limited now, she still loves nursing here and still thrives on learning and passing on her knowledge.

As well as providing Claire with a good career, like many people in the community which QEH serves, the hospital has been integral to some of the happiest and saddest occasions in her life.

“I gave birth to both of my children here, my husband and I have both had operations here and my mother died here,” she said.

Claire Kent archive
Claire as a ward sister in about 1992

Claire (52) underwent her three years’ nursing training when a school was still based here. Her first role, before she moved on to medicine, was at the front door – in the A&E department. It proved to be a good grounding for Claire.

“In those days there were no nursing shortages and there was fierce competition for jobs in the areas we wanted to work,” she said. “I really enjoyed it in A&E – the mix of people, the variety of work and the fact we had a really good team. I was well supported as a junior member of it.”

Claire’s next role was as staff nurse on Necton Ward, which reinforced her preference to continue in the discipline of general medicine, which covers the vast majority of hospital-based specialties.

Her appointment in 1991 as sister on Marham Ward at the young age of 25 was recognition of the progress she was making, both in terms of nursing practice and leading a team.

She said: “Leadership is really important to me. For me, helping a team to grow is all about the people stuff. There’s a lot of evidence that happy staff give better care.”

After the birth of her first child, Sam (now 24), Claire took just seven months’ maternity leave. When Josh was born two years later, she had just six months off.

“If your job is a really big part of your identity then you want to be doing it,” said Claire, who lives just a stone’s throw from the hospital. “I’m convinced I’ve been a better mother overall because of the decisions I made then and the balance I’ve been able to have.”

It was after Sam’s birth in 1994 that she discovered that respiratory was her clinical passion and she became the first Respiratory Nurse Specialist at the QEH. That kept her busy for 15 years and provided her with the opportunity to establish a really important piece of work – the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Oxygen nursing services which worked across primary and secondary care. Whilst in that role she sat on the national committee for the Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists and did some editorial work with the Nursing Times.

“Although that had always been my dream job, my interest in leadership became my driving force,” said Claire, who then successfully applied to be lead nurse in medicine before becoming a matron.

In the last few years Claire has been away from the Trust to other organisations on two secondments – to United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust as Deputy Chief Nurse and the NHS England Midlands and Eastern Region as Patient Experience lead. Both gave her insights into how other organisations work and the chance to develop new skills and bring them back to King’s Lynn. Claire has also continued to study whilst working, becoming an accredited coach and Action Learning Set Facilitator.

“Although the bulk of my career has been at QEH, I’ve always seen it as really important to look outside of the organisation,” she said.

She was immensely proud to be included in the Nursing Times’ Top Leaders list in 2014.

Claire’s most recent challenge during a difficult last winter for the Trust was on secondment as associate chief nurse in medicine.

With so much knowledge and experience across such a broad range of areas, Claire really is a very much appreciated asset to QEH.


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