Nurses Day 2020

Meet some of the nurses working at NEAS

On International Nurses Day, we are profiling some of the nurses who work at NEAS in a variety of roles.

This week marks the anniversary of our Chief Executive Helen Ray starting her training as a nurse in 1983. She said: “I was so proud then to be starting my training and I had a wonderful 18 years as a hands on nurse and now, in my Chief Executive role, I try to always keep those clinical days in mind and patients at the heart of everything I do. I can recall a lot of laughter and tears and a great many patients impacted on my heart in those times. Nurses are the backbone of the NHS and I will always be proud that I have played my part.”

The image shows Helen (back row, second from left) along with some lifelong friends during their first week of training at North Tees Hospital with their tutor Mrs Holmes.


Shelly Dyson is head of patient safety and patient experience. During this current COVID-19 response, Shelley is finding it difficult to not be hands on, in a hospital. However, her role is vitally important within our service to ensure all of our patients are well cared for an any issues are thoroughly investigated.

On her career to date, Shelley said: “I started my career as a nurse on the 1 September 1988, training in Bishop Auckland General Hospital, where I moved to from Cardiff. Once qualified, I returned to South Wales and have worked in elderly care, clinical research, intensive care and paediatric intensive care for six years before moving into the community as a long-term ventilation and tracheostomy Nurse Specialist for Adults and Children.

“I later worked as part of a new orthopaedic nurse practitioner team, comprising two orthopaedic nurses and two of us who had intensive care and retrieval skills. During this time, I married and had two beautiful girls and did what all Mums and Dads who do full time shift work do…. Learned to be an expert juggler!

“In 2008 myself and family returned to the North East and rather eerily on 1 September 2008 exactly 20 years to the day I started my training, I started my role as Clinical Lead in Urgent Care back in Bishop Auckland. For nine years, I worked in Primary Care, Urgent Care, and A and E as both manager and practitioner, before joining NEAS in December 2017 as Head of Patient Safety and now also have Patient Experience within my teams.

“Like lots of nurses, I believe nursing is a vocation and perhaps this is why I have found difficulty reconciling my current role with my nursing instincts during the current pandemic. Whilst absolutely knowing how my role contributes in improving patient safety and patient experience, I no longer wear a uniform!

“However, nurses are a close knit bunch and I have watched and listened often through tears, to the fears and distress of friends, some of whom I have known for over 30 years, and clinical teams I have had the pleasure of working with over the years, who are working on the frontline, and to be truthful felt immensely guilty I am not there with them!.  

“This year on Nurses day, whilst I may not feel like an NHS hero, I do feel immensely blessed and proud to be part of a profession I love working within NEAS.”


Occupational Health Manager Lesley Ellison has worked at NEAS for over 13 years. You can hear her story below:


Sue Tucker is emergency operations centre head of clinical governance and safety. She started her role in March 2018.

Sue qualified as a nurse in 1991 and after working in hospitals, moved on to telephone triage and consultation – working on the national pilots for NHS Direct (now the 111 service) and also helped to roll out the national walk-in centre programme before going back to NHS direct to work as part of the national systems development team. 

Sue initially joined NEAS over 15 years ago as part of the NHS Pathways team and has since worked across primary and secondary care in urgent and emergency medicine environments on developing and deploying technical systems to enhance patient care and change the structure of public access to the health service.

Speaking of her current role at NEAS, Sue said: “My role is to ensure that patients receive the safest and highest quality care when they are being managed in our emergency operations centres (EOC). As head of clinical governance and safety for the EOC I have to call on a range of skills and knowledge – from ensuring the ways in which we work are safe and based on the latest research and evidence through to working shifts as a practitioner myself 

“Being a nurse at NEAS is really effective multi-disciplinary working and the days are never the same. The range of care provided from supporting those in life threatening situations to being able to refer someone straight to a specialist service or manage their symptoms from home.”

Andrew Fox has been a senior clinical advisor since October 2017 but his career didn’t start off in healthcare.

Andrew said: “I left university after studying business management, was working at Safeway and had planned on being store manager. I felt unhappy and demotivated and really didn’t know what I wanted to do.

“Having Sunday lunch with my grandmother, who was a nurse until retiring when I was small, she was telling a story about a nurse she worked with and how she always enjoyed her shift when he was on. It hadn’t actually dawned on me until that point that there where male nurses!

“I started studying in 2005 at Northumbria Uni. I hated the academic part and didn’t get the best grades in exams, however on placement I always got fantastic marks and enjoyed each department I worked on.

My favourite placement had been on neurology, i found it fascinating, I applied and got the job on ward 30 at Newcastle General (now ward 43 at the RVI). It was a baptism of fire with highly acute and very ill and sometimes challenging patients due to brain injury and disease. I worked there for the next ten years and became a confident nurse with a good knowledge base.

"I became possibly too comfortable and could undertake duties with ease. I felt I needed a new challenge and to extend my knowledge. I noted the clinician role on NHS Jobs working for NEAS. To be honest, I didn’t expect to get an interview let alone the job!

“I knew I would like to work for NEAS as I have paramedic friends who enjoyed it and told me they were a great employer. 

“I started in October 2017 and my role is working across the 111 and 999 services. It’s so varied it would be difficult to describe. Being a nurse in the ambulance service, I thought I may not fit in but we nurses can bring a vast and sometimes different knowledge to our paramedic friends.

“My role in 111 and 999 is patient focused, whether that’s assisting our health advisors on live calls when needed, assessing cases that have come via 111 that may be more complex than normal or helping patients manage symptoms at home. 

“In 999 we validate the jobs on the live dispatch stack ensuring patients get the correct care in the right time, keeping the safe as possible with interim advice whilst waiting on a response and when appropriate, assessing patients for alternative care and transport.

“Although we need a wide variety of knowledge because we cover all genders and age groups, being an adult nurse this was scary at first, however we have a wide variety of paramedics and nursing colleagues with different background who are always willing to help.

“I can honestly say I have been so supported at all levels and the occupational health and management have gone far beyond what I have previously experienced. We work well as a whole team and support each other.

I enjoy being a nurse so much and couldn’t imagine doing anything else now.”


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