Izzy’s Story

Isabel Hannigan (Izzy) is the Deputy Ward Sister of Clark Clinic. Having worked in Clark Clinic since 1993 Izzy will be well known to lots of our heart families who have experienced her care, support and singing on the ward when in with their children. We managed to grab a chat with Izzy over a cup of coffee to find out more about life on the ward.

1. When did you decide you wanted to be a nurse and how did you come to work on Clark Clinic?

I really think I was conditioned from day one to be a nurse.  There is a history of medicine and nursing in the family and my grandmother was a nurse for the Red Cross in the Second World War in Tyrone.  Every Christmas I received a full nurse’s uniform – from the starched hat to the shiny shoes – and with being the youngest of three with two older brothers I quite naturally found myself caring and looking after them. Nursing was the only career I was interested in.

I entered the Ulster Hospital Nursing College in 1985 for my general training before heading over to St Bartholomew’s in London.  Once in London I was lucky to spend four years working in paediatric cardiology in Great Ormond Street Hospital which I absolutely loved.  My husband and I decided to return home and when a post came up in Clark Clinic in 1993 it seemed the perfect opportunity.  I joined the Clark Clinic as a staff nurse and haven’t left since.  I couldn’t imagine a better job in a better place as part of a better team.

2. What might a typical day involve in Clark Clinic?

Not only is it there never a typical day but working life has changed tenfold since I started as a nurse, however there are a few constants to each day.  These include the handover and delegation of staff to patients and tending to basic needs whilst being ever vigilant for signs of deterioration in cardiac status.  We now see many more children with complex conditions as treatment has changed dramatically and so much more can be done now to improve outcomes.

A large part of my job also involves being a peacemaker – ensuring high standards of care are met and parents are engaged and included in the care of the child as they need to feel fully involved.  The last decade or so has also seen a huge increase in management obligations and paperwork throughout the hospital and it can be hard to find the time to devote to training and education of staff on the ward which I thoroughly enjoy, especially in light of revalidation which is a requirement for all nursing.

Every day is busy and it is normal for all the nurses to work past their finishing times.  Within this however I always try to find time for the most important thing – spending time with patients and their families to make sure everyone is happy and knows what is happening with their child.

3. What is the most satisfying part of your job?

The most satisfying part of my job is seeing children who are potentially facing a very sad outcome come out the other side and have a really positive future – it’s a real privilege to be with families along that journey and know that the whole team has supported them across the spectrum.

There has also been a large number of younger nurses joining the team in recent years and it is wonderful to see how much they have contributed to the ward already in such a short space of team and how very aware they are that there is no I in team.

4. Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing with your spare time?

My two children, parents and husband keep me occupied along with my beloved border collie, Penelope!  Our two boys, Robbie and Jack, are both older now and like to think they are totally self-sufficient but I still find myself chasing after them!

We love travelling and often find ourselves all around the UK and Ireland with Jack who pipes for a Grade 1 pipe band. My husband and I recently celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary with a special trip to New York with the boys which was fantastic.  I also like to go for long walks with Penelope which helps to clear my head.