Spotlight on nursing: Agnes Collarte
To celebrate International Nurses Day 2020, we’ve shone a spotlight on one of our own nurses. Agnes Collarte is a Tissue Viability Specialist Nurse Lead at St Charles Centre for Health and Wellbeing. Born in the Philippines, Agnes worked as a Nurse Supervisor. She sought to build on her nursing experience and in 2002, travelled to the UK and joined CLCH. Since then, Agnes has thrived; she completed a Masters’ degree in ‘Advancing Practice’, all while being a full-time mum, in full-time employment.
What does a Tissue Viability Specialist Nurse do?
That’s a good question!
Tissue viability is about looking after all aspects of skin and soft tissue wounds, including pressure ulcers, leg ulcers and more. Let’s say you undergo a surgical procedure and the wound fails to close after surgery; my team and I will support you to make sure the wound mends as quickly as possible. It’s not the most glamourous type of nursing and is really challenging, but the transformation it makes to patients’ lives is everything! Sometimes when patients are referred to us, they are grumpy or frustrated because their wounds have not yet healed. By addressing issues and signposting them to wider support where needed, we see patients start to flourish again through our care.
As Nurse Lead, I manage tissue viability in the tri-borough London area (Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea) which includes 15 nursing homes, eight clinics, and support to the tri-borough district nurse and practice nurse. I have a fantastic team of tissue viability nurses, who work round the clock to look after our patients through satellite clinics and home visits. We’re a very busy team but everyone is so flexible and really understand the key priorities of the work we do. We also conduct clinical research and stay updated on new evidence-based research, so we’re always developing our approach to give patients the best level of care we can.
How were you inspired to become a nurse?
From a young age, I was always curious about caring for people - what it was like and how I could get involved. It also helped that in the Philippines, nursing is a highly respected and sought after profession, and a very good source of income. So in 1994, I started my Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, graduated in 1997, and my career journey took off from there.
My mum was also a big driving force at the early stages. She was a dressmaker, and always supported and encouraged me. As nursing was so well respected, it was a big source of pride for her! I’ve also been really privileged to have amazing colleagues and mentors throughout my career too. One of my mentors, Dr Hildegard Charles, inspired me early in my career. She saw my potential, coached and challenged me. Her advice and support was incredible and helped me throughout my nursing career here in the UK.
Did you face any challenges?
Personally, there were a few. Coming from the Philippines, I had to get used to a new way of life in England and a new way of working. In the UK, nursing is bound by the law and there are very clear standards of practice, so I had to familiarise myself with these pretty quickly. It was really tough at first, getting used to my new environment, but I wanted to build my experience and further my nursing career.
Like many jobs, day to day, I do come across challenges and low points, but I have amazing colleagues who I can draw strength from.
What is the highlight of your nursing career?
It’s hard to pick just one - nursing is the most rewarding job in my whole career! Every day, I get to see the positive effects that my team’s care has on our patients, and this is so satisfying. I’ve worked at CLCH for 18 years and I’m definitely part of the furniture now. I certainly wouldn’t have stayed so long, if it wasn’t for the passion I have for nursing and caring for people - it’s really fulfilling.
Do you have a message for those interested in becoming a nurse?
Do your research and make sure you have a clear vision of what you’re taking on.
Nursing is an amazing profession that covers broad aspects of life - birth, childhood, adulthood and much more. It’s a big commitment, can be very tough but is extremely rewarding.