Keeping grounded and giving back
When Yvonne Wright chose to become an auxiliary nurse in 1982, the decision was instrumental in informing both her future career and life outside work.
Now chief nurse with NHS Grampian and vice chairperson with family support charity, Home-Start Aberdeen, Yvonne successfully manages two busy, but related, roles. As Trustees Week 2017 draws to a close, she explains the benefits of being involved with both.
“I first joined the NHS as an auxiliary. After registering and working as a nurse in various settings I became a student health visitor,” said Yvonne.
“The health visitor who I shadowed was a trustee with Home-Start Aberdeen, so I’ve had a strong awareness of the charity’s activities for most of my career.”
When Yvonne started working as a health visitor herself, covering the Mastrick and Northfield areas of the city, she began to refer families to Home-Start Aberdeen. The scheme, whose trained volunteers provide home-based support for vulnerable or isolated local families, still receives the majority of its referrals from health visitors today.
“As a health visitor, I could see first-hand that Home-Start’s combination of practical and emotional support genuinely works for families,” said Yvonne.
“My own visits to a family would sometimes coincide with those of a Home-Start volunteer and the benefits of their activities were clear.”
This conviction led to Yvonne becoming an adviser with the charity in 2001 before joining its board of trustees in 2005. Her deepening involvement with Home-Start Aberdeen coincided with her gaining increasingly senior roles within NHS Grampian.
In her current position as chief nurse, Yvonne oversees five nursing managers, who in turn have a combined total of around 800 staff members. Based at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, her team are spread across a wide range of departments, including cancer care, theatre, surgery, the intensive and critical care units, radiology and outpatients.
“I am extremely fortunate as the NHS has always been supportive of my external commitment to Home-Start Aberdeen,” said Yvonne.
“They willingly provided permission for me to become a trustee and my NHS colleagues were some of my most ardent cheerleaders when I received the Outstanding Trustee of the Year Award in the Home-Start UK national awards earlier in 2016.
“From the other side of things, the staff team and my fellow trustees at Home-Start Aberdeen are very sensitive to my work situation. Our meetings take place in the evenings – outside the traditional working day – and much of our communication in between takes place via e-mail.
“Many of the trustees have busy schedules and the charity has adapted accordingly, ensuring that we make best use of technology to interact.”
Yvonne believes that one of the keys to making a trustee commitment work alongside a full-time employed role is its relevance.
“The health of our communities is always at the forefront of my mind,” she said.
“My role with Home-Start Aberdeen keeps me grounded and gives me a genuine insight into the mental and physical health issues that local families are grappling with.
“I adopt the same ethos when I am visiting wards in my NHS role; I feel it is crucial to know which patients are most in need of assistance and what we are doing to help them.”
From Home-Start Aberdeen’s viewpoint, Yvonne’s NHS insights and experience have been invaluable.
Georgette Cobban, scheme manager, has worked with Yvonne throughout her time as an adviser and trustee.
She said: “Yvonne never forgets that nursing is about people. I am sure this is evident in her NHS role and it is most certainly apparent whenever she talks about Home-Start and the impact the support has on family life.
“She is well-known and respected in local NHS and community circles and her longstanding association has brought Home-Start Aberdeen a great deal of credibility with the wider social work and health sectors.”
Yvonne said: “When Home-Start Aberdeen started life from a cupboard in Mastrick, the fight for funding – and survival – was constant. The team persevered because we believed in the service we were offering. Today, Home-Start Aberdeen is one of the largest schemes in the UK. I would urge anyone who identifies a need – and has a passion for meeting it – to never give up.”