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Helen Catton Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in Nursing - Adult, 2005

Program Manager for the Maternal and Child Survival Program (part of the Save the Children Primary Health Care program)

Helen Catton's Photo

Hi, I'm Helen Catton and I studied the Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in Adult Nursing within Health Sciences at the University of Southampton.

The PG Diploma in Adult Nursing provided me not only with nursing skills and knowledge but also foundational skills as a health professional. These continue to be critical to my current work.

I studied the Adult Nursing pathway from 2003-5. I really enjoyed the course and had some great clinical placements. I also relished the academic side and spent many happy hours in the library with a wealth of books and journals.

While studying, I worked part time as a healthcare assistant and gained experience in other healthcare settings and wards to broaden my clinical practice. I also volunteered for the Red Ribbons HIV charity and the Southampton Working Womens' project which supports street working women. This opened up my experience enabling me to meet others and provide healthcare in very different and diverse settings.

After graduating, I worked on the Infection Control and Immunology ward at St Bartholomew's Hospital London. We had a truly multidisciplinary team who worked together productively and the nurses were all motivated to give the best quality care. It was a unique environment and I was very lucky.

During my two and half years at Barts, I completed two internal courses on tuberculosis and mentorship. I also took the Nursing in Tropical Diseases course at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I volunteered for the Terence Higgins Trust as a clinical advisor; at the time they were setting up small clinics. I also volunteered with Medecin du Monde for 'Project London', an open access clinic for migrants, asylum seekers, homeless people and all those without status and registration with a GP. It’s basically a clinic to provide healthcare for those who would otherwise have no access to it. We provided clinical care and advocacy.

I tried to gain as much work and volunteer experience as I could during my time in London. As well as furthering my studies to equip me to go back to the field and work in Asia. I had been in Asia for five years before I began my nursing course in Southampton and it was always my plan to return. I enjoyed my job at Barts very much but knew that I must pursue the path that I had begun years before.

So in 2007 I returned to the Thai Burmese border and worked in a local hospital with a nurse-led primary health care team. We provided clinics in antenatal care, TB and HIV follow up and an 'Under five' clinic giving vaccinations and checking growth charts etc. During this time, I organized plastic surgery missions for burns and cleft palates. This initiative started in 2009 and still continues without me.

At the same time, I worked part time in a children's home for 150 children. There I developed medical records, established a rolling vaccination programme, dealt with an outbreak of malaria, treated minor illness and injury and held our own monthly 'Under five' clinic for 40 children.

I also took care of children with chronic diseases and sought specialist consultation; three with Thalassemia, two with congenital heart defects who we sponsored for surgery, one baby with an Aids defining illness and a baby with HIV/TB who had defaulted on TB treatment. We provided outreach clinics to villages to provide simple medicine and support by way of rice and oil. We took a backpack of medicines for such trips and always met need.

From 2010-15 I moved to Cambodia to work for Angkor hospital and established the Satellite hospital in Sotnikum, a small town outside of Siem Reap. The Satellite is a unique partnership with the government district hospital and healthcare system. At the Satellite, I led a team of Khmer staff in a 20-bed pediatric hospital. The Khmer staff are now managing and leading it themselves.

In 2016, I began work with Save the Children in Lao People's Democratic Republic, Luang Prabang as part of the Save the Children Primary Health Care program. My role is Program Manager for the Maternal and Child Survival Program, a global USAID funded initiative across 25 countries. We focus on capacity building of midwives to provide quality care at the time of birth for mothers and newborns.

Looking back, the PG Diploma in Adult Nursing provided me not only with nursing skills and knowledge but also foundational skills as a health professional. These continue to be critical to my current work on a daily basis. For example, the importance of providing basic care not relying on equipment, understanding the patient journey, accountability as a nurse, scope of practice and ethics. The module on management and leadership, our last module, has helped me in the senior roles I have taken on in the last 7 years.

I am extremely grateful to have had these opportunities and appreciate the PG Diploma in nursing which provided me the foundation to establish my nursing career and to take it further. Since I graduated I have kept in contact with Health Sciences, and in the last few years have presented an annual talk to share some of my overseas work experiences. I value the continued relationship and connection with Health Sciences, staff and students.

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