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Jo Haworth – From dress-up and play to chief nurse at top performing Kent hospitals

When she was a little girl Jo Haworth used to dress up as a nurse and get her grandad to be her patient. Today she is the chief nurse at one of the top performing hospital trusts in the country and leading a 3,000 strong team of talented nursing and midwifery staff.

Jo has been in her first chief nurse role for nine months and works across both Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals where the teams provide care for around 760,000 people every year.Her dad was a teacher and her mum was a carer, so Jo was brought up in world of public service, care and compassion which inspired her career choice and from a really young age she always wanted to be a nurse.She studied psychology and health studies at university before moving to London for her nurse training.

Jo said: “My mum dropped me off at the nurses home, I went up to my room in an old fashioned cranking lift and I could hear Big Ben chiming every 15 minutes and thought I’d never sleep again.“My memories of nursing training include the very high standards which were instilled in us from the start, as well as wearing hats and horrible collars that dug into your neck.” Jo worked as a health care support worker in a hospital and nursing home before she began her training so had a good idea about what life on the wards would be like. She said, “I love the absolute variety – no two days are the same and that has not changed from the beginning of my career 30 years ago to now. I love meeting people and being able to have an impact in their lives – for patients, their families and staff.“As a nurse my clinical background was in the Emergency Department and it was an absolute privilege to be with people at the best and worst time of their lives. Not many people get that opportunity.”

Since joining MTW Jo has been overwhelmed by how welcoming, kind and friendly everyone has been: “There really is something special about the MTW family. A lot of people have worked here for a long time, moved away and then come back. That says something about this trust. “Throughout my nursing career I was offered opportunities to grow and reach my potential. What I really love about my chief nurse role is that now I can support the education and development of a new generation of nurses. “I can play a part in shaping our trust and providing the right environment for our staff to be their very best and achieve their goals. And I know that if we have happy and supported staff they are able to give the very best care to our patients and their families. ”

MTW recently launched a major recruitment campaign to recruit nurses, and other healthcare professionals.  Many of the roles are new and will support the trust’s expanding clinical services. Jo said, “Our priorities are to ensure nurses realise their maximum potential. We support staff to progress and offer them the chance to be whatever they want to be. This could even be the future chief nurse if that is what someone aspires to be. “We want to provide outstanding care to our patients every day and so we invest heavily in training and development. I also want our nurses to excel in their careers, take up opportunities in areas that interest them as they develop their skills.”

Training opportunities are varied, including internal and external training, through to specialist courses, master’s degrees and PhDs. Nurses can progress into management or research roles too. Staff also benefit from the trust’s investment in health and wellbeing. Acupuncture, art therapy, wellbeing lounges and massage chairs are just some of the initiatives offered. There is an in-house team offering psychological support, and wellbeing partners whose role is to provide a listening ear to teams working on the frontline too. Jo added, “Staff are our biggest asset so looking after their wellbeing is vital. We want our nurses to feel happy and content in their roles, as this means our patients will get the best possible care and experience. “MTW is an exciting place to work and I’d really encourage people looking for their next career move or those who have ambitions to become a nurse to check out the opportunities we have.”