The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife campaign has been extended in Europe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. To kick off 2021, Mairi Gaffney, Head of Healthy Working Lives, tells us about her career so far and how Healthy Working Lives have been supporting colleagues during the pandemic.
I come from a family where you either went into the theatre or medicine. At first, I was going to train as a PE teacher but while working abroad I realised nursing was for me. I have never regretted that decision.
My role as Head of Healthy Working Lives is firstly to ensure that people are fit to do their job and help maximise their health on the basis that good work improves it, even for those who have underlying disability or illness.
In order to do this, I lead a team that provides occupational health, wellbeing, health and safety, physiotherapy counselling and specialist psychological services. We provide support not only to NSS but also Scottish Ambulance, NES, HIS and Public Health Scotland.
I’ve always enjoyed supporting people to work even when they have huge health challenges. A few highlights would include being invited to Singapore and The Philippines to present papers on Occupational Health Nursing, delivering three babies now called Mairi, and becoming an honorary lecturer at Glasgow University.
Working during the pandemic has been the most challenging time of my career. The ask of occupational health services in particular has been enormous. We’ve been involved in setting up new services, such as contact tracing for national boards, within a matter of weeks which would normally take months. We also formed a team to clear some 40,000 staff available to work in boards and carried out health assessments for staff with underlying health conditions to COVID-19 vaccinations.
My career has given me opportunities to work in many different environments in the NHS, education, local government and private industry. I have been supported to follow my interests and accommodate family life, and I can truly say you get great rewards on a personal and professional level.
If you want a job that will remain interesting and challenging throughout your working life, nursing is for you.