Staff wellbeing, support and communication between colleagues during Covid has been the biggest benefit

Shamina Martin, Pain Nurse Specialist in Lincolnshire, shares how she came to work in pain services, the support received and the impact of the pandemic on effectively supporting people living in persistent pain.

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Being curious, caring and empathetic led me to take up a nursing career

When I was a child, I was always told how patient and caring I was, bringing lots of ‘waifs and strays’ home to care for, such as an injured animal. I trained as a nurse at the University of Nottingham.

Being fascinated by people, I had a nursing placement at the local prison and working there made me feel like I wanted to change the world, improve standards and be an advocate for people from all walks of life.

I graduated in 2004 and started out as an ICU nurse in Boston and from there I found that I was drawn to more complex patients, which led me into prison nursing and then substance misuse before going into a hospital pain management service in 2016. I also work with patients with sleep apnoea.


When I first started in the pain service, I found it a little frustrating

I didn’t have a lot of time with the patient, and it was very much focused on a medical model in order to get rid of people’s pain – a passive and outdated model in my opinion. I have had issues with back pain for some time myself and working with substance misuse gives you a different insight into the use of medication and the adverse impact it can have.


Since moving to Connect, I’ve seen a very different ethos to pain

I joined Connect Health in April 2019 being transferred by TUPE from NHS Lincolnshire’s pain service. Things changed massively when Connect took over the service. The support given to patients about self-management is excellent and not something available previously.


Initially I was very unhappy about the move, as I always saw myself as an NHS nurse

In my head, the independent sector was all about the money and not about the patients. I’d heard they don’t give you the same holidays and package. In my case, I soon realised that the package was identical. Having worked for Connect Health in partnership with the NHS, the benefits of working in the service really outweigh the negative mindset I had.


I have been extremely grateful and feel that Connect Health offers a great service for staff and patients.


Connect Health offers excellent training and wellbeing support to staff

When I first joined, we had some cauda equina training, something I knew so little about. It’s a smaller company but invest so much into making sure everyone is really well trained. It’s a wonderful place to work.


Covid hit everyone hard but the support offered has been incredible

As a team, everyone has their own area of interest be it pain, physio, women’s health etc, and it has been really great to be able to ask them questions. The service manager is wonderful and so diplomatic, going out of her way to always try to implement changes and make things easier for us.


I think it’s been difficult for patients who would like to be seen face to face

Some people perhaps with hearing problems or no internet access (not uncommon in Lincolnshire and with older generations) have had additional frustrations. This is in addition to not being able to access their GP, all of which impacts their pain and emotional wellbeing.

For patients it’s about moving forwards with their pain and we support people over the telephone, video appointments, with videos and support tools. It’s improved my listening skills no end, not relying on body language and giving me a new take on reading people by their tone of voice. The majority of patients have been very respectful of the situation.


I personally struggled in the early days of the pandemic

Things happened really quickly. We were issued with laptops and put in a situation where we were able to work safely from home. With 3 children and Max the dog, I was also home schooling. I coped terribly in the initial lockdown, I didn’t feel like I was in control and as a result needed time off work. I did feel really supported by the team and met with an emotional and wellbeing expert.


I have made some great changes to my own lifestyle

The Connect Health team spirit spurred me on to do some exercise as many members of the team really do practice what they preach and encourage healthy coping mechanisms, rather than smoking and drinking wine! I’ve even started meditating. I’ve seen other team members go through awful things but they’ve gone on to move to a new house, be promoted or started a new course.

Due to the nature of pain, there can be days when time management can lead to empathy fatigue. Let’s face it, pain isn’t a very positive topic and often when patients come to us, they’ve been in pain for quite some time and understandably may have a defeatist attitude or be expecting a magic wand but having a more varied day and being part of the pain management programme helped enormously.

In the near future, I am going to complete my non-medical prescribing course and hope to become involved in medication reviews.


NHS nurses are doing a fantastic job, truly selfless warriors

Nurses are amazing human beings. But I know nurses who are struggling with fatigue, have had cancelled leave and a difficult work life balance. I feel very valued at Connect and I am very grateful to have learnt so much in a short time. Not just about pain, but also about myself.


I have witnessed some of the most brilliant communication and teamwork amongst colleagues since I became a nurse in 2004.


If you’d like to find out more about working at Connect Health, contact

Click here to download Shamina Martin’s Story