Fiona Metcalfe, Lead Nurse for Neonatal Surgery, Leeds Children’s Hospital, Neonatal Mental Health Awareness Week Spokeswoman

I am the Lead Nurse for Neonatal Surgery at Leeds Children’s hospital since July 2018. This is a new role created here in Leeds to oversee the Neonatal surgical service. As part of my role I review the service and implement strategies required for any improvements, review and develop care pathway and guidelines. Support the safe repatriation of surgical neonates to their local hospital so they can be cared for close to home when it is safe to do so.

 I am Irish. I qualified as an adult nurse in 1994 in Ireland. I went on to train to specialise as a Paediatric nurse in 1997 in Dublin. It was during my training that I got a special interest in looking after sick infants and supporting their families in order to be able to take their babies home that had on-going health care needs.

I moved to London and got my first experience working on a Neonatal unit in the Homerton Hospital. From that point I knew I was going to continue my nursing career caring for sick and premature babies and their families. And that is what I have done for the last 22 years. A Yorkshire man brought me to Bradford where I have lived for the last 20 years. I now have two teenage children that I am so proud of.

 I worked at Airedale General Hospital for 8 years and did my neonatal speciality course. My move to Leeds Children’s hospital in 2008 marked a shift in my career to specialise in caring for infants following surgery in the newborn period. Our Neonatal Surgery ward is within the Neonatal unit. I became a Neonatal Surgical Outreach nurse for the outreach team. I then got the role as Unit Manager for neonatal surgery in 2014.

 My Outreach role involved supporting parental education and preparation of families for discharge home, across parts of the Yorkshire region. My role was unique in that I could visit families after discharge to support their transition to home and their local services. We were a point of contact in the early months if there were any issues or concerns about a baby and could advise local health professional or do home visits ourselves. It was really during this time in my career that I got more of and insight into the effects having a child on the Neonatal unit and going home with on-going health issues had. I was often really proud of what I could do to help and support families so they felt more confident at home.  However I could also see that sometimes this wasn’t enough and it could be difficult to find the right support in the community.  I could see the change in some families after discharge home. There was worry, fear and isolation, concerns for the future. Families trying to come to terms with the life changing experience of the neonatal unit and how that affected every member of the family.

As part of my current role I can influence change and improvements. I can also support the great initiatives on our Neonatal unit that strive for excellent family integrated care and parental involvement. I support the specialist education of nurses across the region and develop care guidelines to ensure excellent, safe care can be given to a very special group of patients.  I am so proud to be part of a great, innovative multidisciplinary team in Leeds that wants to make a real difference. I am passionate about families and care of the surgical neonate, education and collaboration. This NMHAW is a great platform to look at the issues that families and staff can have and see what changes are needed to help.

Facts & Figures

79% of parents said a neonatal stay affected their mental health

Leo’s saw a 337% increase in need due to COVID-19

Did you know, reading to your baby in the NICU helps their development?

Leo's Neonatal

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