Jacqui Burnett was advised to not work with people but consider gardening as a career option.
Now as matron of the A&E unit at MK Hospital, she is not only working in a people profession but successfully leading a team who arguably undertake one of the most difficult roles in the NHS.
Her job as matron is to run frontline services in A&E which is one of the hospital’s busiest departments, tasked with assessing and treating patients with serious injury or illness.
The Accident & Emergency department, or ED as staff refer to it, is the subject of a Citizen campaign launched in February. Backed by MPs Mark Lancaster and Iain Stewart the campaign is calling for a new A&E to cater for Milton Keynes’ growing population.
It also has the backing of matron Jacqui Burnett and her dedicated team, some of whom are taking on the London to Brighton bike ride to raise funds.
Said Jacqui: “As matron I’m backing the Citizen’s campaign and the efforts of four of my A&E team who are doing the London to Brighton bike ride to help raise funds to boost the campaign.”
Jacqui, who unlike the formidable Hattie Jacques figure everyone associates with matron, is a 36-year-old mum of one, personable and the consummate professional.
Coming from a nursing background, her mother’s five sisters all joined the nursing profession, Jacqui admits it’s probably in the blood and comes naturally.
She added: “I never seriously considered nursing, although did think when I left school that I wanted to work in an undertaker’s or morturary. I didn’t like blood and had an ingrained fear. It was then that one of my aunts suggested I look at nursing so I agreed to do some voluntary work and it took off from there.
“I trained at Milton Keynes hospital and when I qualified transferred to Kettering hospital before coming back here in 2000.I specialised in acute medicine and worked for a time as matron of CDU (Clinical Care Unit), before taking on the role of matron of A&E in February this year.
“I love what I do. It is stressful, and can be harrowing but when people ask, ‘how do you cope?’ I always say it’s down to the team. We always do our best and when one of us is having a bad day there’s always someone to turn to. So it’s very much a team approach, team supportive. We help each other.
“At the end of the day I not only work here, this is my local hospital. My relatives have been treated at this hospital and my son was born here.
“Above all we have a real passion for MK hospital, the job we do, and our collegues in A&E. And while things can be difficult, we do our utmost to offer excellent care.
“What really makes me angry is when problems are highlighted at other hospitals and people think it’s the same at MK. Yes, things do go wrong but we do what we can to put those things right. That’s why feedback is important and our initiatives to encourage patient feedback has proved invaluable.
“Yes, we do need a new A&E but staffing levels have improved which has helped my job massively. We do our best to hit the four hour targets and most days exceed them. Patients remember the beginning of their A&E journey, when they are admitted and when they are discharged. So we try to ensure it all goes well. If it doesn’t they will reflect on the middle part of their journey and look for the negatives.”
Essentially Jacqui’s job as matron is 9am-5pm, five days a week. But she admits it’s difficult to switch off and although she can rely on her support staff sometimes feels she’s on duty 24/7.
“My husband is a stay-at-home dad who looks after our son which makes my job easier. But I’ve been known to pop in at weekends or 3am in the morning – just to reassure staff and check things are going smoothly.
“Ultimately we have a great team spirit, a lot of the staff were my mentors when I started in nursing so it feels like a family.”
As a modern matron Jacquie excels in her role in setting and maintaining standards of clinical excellence and improving experiences for patients and families.
As Jacqui puts in: “There is stress and it is emotional but that’s how it should be. When I start to get ‘used to the job’ and the passion goes that’s when I will know it’s no longer for me.”