Being told you will be in pain for the rest of your life can feel like a death sentence – but it doesn’t have to, according to specialist pain nurse Tina Elliott.
A huge part of her role is helping people come to terms with living with pain, and finding ways to manage it, whether that’s the latest high-tech option or taking a more holistic approach with the help of a psychologist and occupational therapist.
And while it’s a challenging role, it’s a dream job for Tina, who worked as an accounts clerk and in a taxi office before discovering healthcare as a career.
She said: “When I was growing up I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I left school at 16 and worked in an office until I had children and was a stay-at-home mum.
“Then I took a part-time job in a taxi office just to get me out of the house, but my neighbour was a nurse and one day I got talking to her and she suggested I joined the flexibank as a healthcare assistant.
“I really enjoyed it and started my training when my son was four.”
After working on the wards, Tina applied for a job in the intensive care unit because she wanted to challenge herself.
But managing pain was always one of her passions.
She said: “I’d had very poor pain management when I had my children and I saw it when I was working too.
“Once I was nursing someone on ITU and his daughter came up to me because she had remembered me from the ward.
“She’d broken her hip and I’d arranged for her to have patient-controlled analgesia to help with the pain.
“Her father was dying but she took the time out to come and thank me for helping with her pain.”
When the pain nurse role was advertised, it seemed like the natural progression for Tina and she has now been in post for a decade.
She said: “We all have pain and we all know someone with pain but sometimes I think we don’t realise the huge impact it can have on a person’s life.
“Often they are functioning but going home and crying.
“My job is not to take the pain away but to help people live with it and manage it, and to listen and understand.”
There are many stand-out cases where she and her colleagues have been able to make a difference, often involving the spinal cord stimulation service offered at East Kent Hospitals. The nearest alternatives are Southampton and London.
Tina said: “When I saw one particular patient in clinic he couldn’t sit down, he had to stand leaning on his walking stick. He couldn’t walk, and it had affected his whole life.
“We put a spinal cord stimulator in and now he is working full time as a security guard.
“That side of the role is something I am very passionate about and interested in and I would like to explore it further in future.”