Work Hard

HLN meets… Jill Fozzard, RVI

This International Nurses Day, we caught up with Jill – Nurse Colposcopist at the RVI’s Women's Health Unit – to chat smear tests, pregnancy scans and why nursing in the North East really is a profession we should all be proud of.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 12.05.2022

‘A warm smile is the universal language of kindness’ – William Arthur Ward

For patients in hospital, a warm smile can mean the world. Especially when they’re going through a difficult time.

And from dedicating their lives to caring for others to working long, tiresome hours, nurses truly are angels sent from above.

Today, on International Nurses Day – a day which marks the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth – we celebrate nurses all around the world and thank them for all the incredible work that they do.

Which is why we caught up with Jill Fozzard, Nurse Colposcopist at the RVI’s Women’s Health Unit, to find out what it takes to become a nurse, the challenges that come with the role and how the recent lockdowns have had a lasting impact on women’s health in the North East.

What inspired you to become a nurse?

At the age of 18, I thought I was following my dream and went off to do a course in theatre design and English, but it wasn’t for me. I subsequently explored physiotherapy. However, as I looked more into the profession, I thought nursing might be more what I was looking for in a career that might enable me to work anywhere with a greater variety of options in healthcare.

I thought it might be a stepping stone to something else, as I have had several breaks in nursing, but I’ve always come back to it. I’m still nursing many years later and I’m still very happy with my choice. Nursing has offered me many opportunities and has enabled me to have an additional role to my main one in teaching and training nurses to take cervical samples.



What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m working in a busy outpatient clinic with women attending the department following referrals from a wide variety of sources. Most of our patients have had abnormal cervical samples (smears) and require a closer examination of the cervix (colposcopy) and sometimes biopsies and treatment.

The clinic is varied and no two days are the same. We see women who are pregnant and there may be concerns about the appearance of the cervix, or women who may have unusual symptoms or vaginal bleeding. When attending our department, women are very anxious and unsure of what to expect. It’s the fear of the unknown, along with having to show one of the most intimate parts of the body to a complete stranger.

What do you love most about your job?

What I value most about my role is being able to reassure women. We have a short period of time in a consultation to engage with women, reduce their anxieties and gain their confidence whilst, at the same time, seeing them at their most vulnerable. So, for me, the best part of my role is seeing and feeling the relief women experience as they leave the department and I know I have, along with the amazing team I am proud to work with, given women an experience that is tailored to their individual needs.

Evidence shows that having a positive experience like this means women are more likely to engage with the cervical screening programme in the future. This is really important at a time when women coming in for screening is at an all-time low. I’m also proud that we can offer members of staff the option to have their cervical sample taken in the department at a time that is convenient to them around their work commitments.



What do you find most challenging about your job?

I think that one of the most challenging parts of the role is managing the flow of administration that comes with any role in nursing. Whether that’s emails, telephone calls or simply keeping up to date with research or new developments. In this digital age, it can be non-stop and time consuming, which often takes me away from patient contact. It is a necessary part of the role, but sometimes conflicts with other demands of the service.

We can’t imagine how tough nursing would have been during the pandemic. Talk to us about your experience…

Anxiety levels for women attending our unit are massive at any time and during the COVID pandemic this was magnified as partners, relatives or friends were not allowed to accompany women. Also, for some women, simply coming into a hospital at that time was a big step for them and we had several women who chose not to attend and were, therefore, potentially putting their health at risk.

We would spend extra time writing to our women or having telephone calls, to reassure them how safe it was to attend the hospital, the steps that were in place to reduce the transmission of Covid, and that we would go the extra mile to ensure that all their individual needs were met.



What would you say it takes to become a nurse?

Resilience, an ability to adapt to changing situations, a sense of humour and a good, solid pair of shoes!

What would your advice be for any women wanting to get into nursing?

Since I came into the profession many years ago, there have been huge developments and I think that, as a career, it offers many things to many people. Even today, I still come across roles within nursing that did not exist many years ago and we’re taking on a lot of the roles that would have been traditionally undertaken by doctors only.

So, I would say to anyone interested, that it isn’t for everyone! You need to be resilient and be able to get on with people as it can be stressful at times, but it’s very rewarding. There are so many different areas to specialise in that it really is a job for life.



What does the future look like for women’s health in the North East?

The future for the prevention and development of cervical cancer is very positive. There have been huge developments in understanding the cause of it and screening for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – which may lead to abnormalities on the cervix – and HPV vaccinations for young women and children, which may prevent some of the abnormalities developing. All these factors have changed the outcomes for many women and will continue to do so. There’s a lot of hope that cervical cancer will be a rare disease in the future.

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