Message from the Past Chair

It’s my time to go!

Manda Dunne, Past Chair and committee member of BARNA

I didn’t want to leave the BARNA Committee without putting something down in writing. It has been an honour and a privilege to be a part of this wonderful association and I want to share some of my experiences with you which I hope may inspire you to become more involved, as I did. I spent nine and a half years of this time as Chair, (with a break in the middle) but wow – what an experience. I have grown in confidence and experience at a time in my life when I thought I had probably done most of what I wanted to do. How wrong I was!

You know, there is a brilliant saying, ‘you get back what you put in!’ This couldn’t be more true as I found out over the past sixteen years of my life!

So how did it all happen? Back in 2002 I was attending the WCNA (World Congress of Nurse Anaesthetists) in Helsinki, Finland, and I had something on my mind. You see, I was unhappy, I had read something in the BARNA journal that didn’t quite sit right with me so I intended to say something to the then Chair, Pat Smedley. When I eventually found her, across Drager’s impressive stand, I said my piece, not quite knowing what response I would get! What I didn’t expect was for Pat to say, ‘if you feel that strongly why not join the committee?’ and I remember saying ‘no thank you!’

However, when I returned home I gave the matter great thought and questioned myself. If I wanted say my bit for anaesthetic and recovery nurses and have the chance to make a difference, why not join the committee? I had been a longstanding BARNA member so this seemed a good idea. I contacted Pat with my change of heart! I always believed that you get more out of something if you are part of it rather than just looking in from the outside wondering what goes on and usually complaining and criticising and getting it completely wrong.

I didn’t know what to expect at my first committee meeting or even what I should wear! I entered the meeting with trepidation only to find we were all happy humans. I was gently told that I really must use email and that everyone on the committee has a job and nobody can do nothing!! I have never looked back, although I never imagined sixteen years later I would be writing this!

At that time I hadn’t even caught up with technology. I didn’t possess a mobile phone and our hospital was only just starting email accounts and I didn’t know how I was going to manage. It doesn’t seem possible now, everything is done via the email and Skype, social media plays a big part of our lives and I am sure we couldn’t function without it now. We still manage at least two face to face meetings a year because that personnel face to face is so valuable and maintains the human nature side of things.

It was just so exhilarating to be discussing and planning events, planning the way forward for BARNA and being part of a group of like-minded nurses all with the same passion for anaesthetic and recovery nursing. As with any new venture it takes time to understand the structure and how things work. Also, I needed to understand myself, and how I could make a difference and contribute effectively and productively.

Organising conferences and study days was so new to me but I soon discovered, just talk to people, be nice and they will always help you! I have always been so touched by how much people are prepared to do and ask nothing in return. I am eternally grateful to so many doctors and nurses and others who have given up their time to speak at conference and study days. We have also been joined by others who have added that little something else to our conference, as Clare Rayner did one year!

I love my role as an anaesthetic sister and I love the department I work in so this seemed to be my dream volunteer role! That’s the thing you see, BARNA is run by a volunteer team of nurses who quite simply love the profession and care overwhelmingly about anaesthetics and recovery. Over the years I have given up lots of my free time and made many sacrifices, some financially and some family time but the reward far outweighs that.

In 2004 I was asked if I would consider becoming the vice-chair of BARNA. We were at the BARNA conference in Hove at the time and I was not expecting that at all, a complete suprise. I remember phoning my husband to ask his advice! Of course it had to be my decision so I accepted the challenge, already worrying whether I could do it or not. The next few weeks were filled with a lot of soul searching and it wasn’t easy for me, but I knew in my heart of hearts, of course it was the right decision. My work colleagues supported me so much and were quite instrumental in making me believe I could do it. It is so much fun to learn new things and great to be challenged in a way I had never been challenged before.

The next two years flew by and before I knew it I had taken up my position as Chair, still in a state of disbelief. As always happens when changes take place I found several longstanding committee members leaving which did scare me at first but I soon formed my new team and we cracked on! Nobody knows what to do when you take on something like this but I have enjoyed every moment – well, almost every moment! I have had my eyes widely opened, I have met amazing people, I have travelled to places I never thought possible, I have been involved with other organisations such as AfPP (Association of Perioperative Practice), CODP (College of Operation Department Practitioners), RCoA (Royal College of Anaesthetists) and the AAGBI (Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland) to name a few. BARNA is part of the PCC (Perioperative Care Collaborative) and we have recently been involved in writing a core curriculum for anaesthetic, recovery and theatre nurse training up to Masters Level.

We have done and do work with NICE and are becoming more involved with other projects and departments. We are involved with GPAS (Guidelines for Anaesthetic Practice) which we have been doing with the RCoA which is really interesting.

I have been able to be involved in making changes and contributing to decisions and I have learned so much more than I could have imagined. I haven’t always agreed with some of the outcomes but at least I have had the chance to speak up for nurses which as a nurse, is very important to me. You have to believe in yourself and really consider the needs of others too. Positivity is paramount and I have been so fortunate to work in a department where support for BARNA is strong and encouraging.

Our past and present Presidents are very much part of the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) which has helped to raise our profile more in the nursing forum too.

I hardly know where to start telling you of the lifelong enrichment BARNA has brought me. I attended my first ASPAN (American Society of Perianaesthesia Nursing) conference in 2005 in Chicago, representing BARNA. I was vice-chair and had never done anything like this before. What an honour this was and what an opportunity. The most amazing thing I brought back from this meeting was that even in America, because we all think they have everything, they have the same problems we do, an ageing workforce, educational issues, funding, lack of beds in some hospitals, money issues and difficulty in accessing healthcare for some. I even had to ask what a gurney was - how green was I?!

I can’t tell you how valuable and rewarding this experience was and to be able to talk to other nurses in the same speciality but in another situation and country. Networking they call it! To be able to listen to their lectures and compare how our practice differs, or if it’s the same was really beneficial. I attended the foundation luncheon where I was blown away by the pride the nurses felt for each other and how they openly praise each other. This felt uplifting and not at all twee but it did strike me how professional jealousy can get in the way of good working relationships and practice when it is all just so unnecessary. I know it is not all milk and honey over the pond but it was the start of my passion to meet others and share my experiences. I have had the opportunity to attend other ASPAN meetings too and the value of those visits never goes away. I have met new friends who I now hold dear to me which was not something I expected either.

In 2006 I took over the role of Country Representative for the IFNA (International Federation of Nurse Anaesthetists). This has been the icing on the cake for me. I am particularly passionate about anaesthetic nursing and I have had the most wonderful experience being involved with this organisation. The term Nurse Anaesthetist purely means nurses working in anaesthesia. Of course we could never use that term here for various reasons but neither should new feel any less valued because we don’t have that title. I discovered that many countries work exactly the same as we do; many do more and some less. Then there are the CRNA’s in America (Certified Registered Nurse Anaesthetists) who in some States, have complete autonomy, and are trained to do so. They still have issues with other disciplines so we have many similarities there too. In some third world African countries there are no anaesthetists at all, or very few, so if the nurses didn’t administer the anaesthetic, there would be none. I have learned not to take everything for granted and it is very humbling to talk to some of these nurses and hear about their experiences.

In 2008 I was voted onto the IFNA executive committee which I have served on ever since due to re-election but I am in my final two years before handing over to my colleague Steven Kay. This has been a massive experience and just so interesting and this consequently led to my colleague of work and BARNA, Markku Viherlaiho, to bringing the WCNA 2016 (World Congress of Nurse Anaesthetists) to Glasgow, Scotland. Now this is definitely where commitment comes in! We learned to work with a Professional Conference Organiser and other city agencies and also how to deliver a big congress. It required sacrificing a lot of our own time and we were required to travel to many countries promoting the congress, but we did it. We would never have even thought of this if it wasn’t for BARNA and our affiliation to IFNA. It’s not easy to juggle life in general, work and something like this but it can be done, you just have to want too.

I had the good fortune to be able to promote at the AANA (American Association of Nurse Anaesthetists) congress in Salt Lake City in September 2015. This really inspired me and the first thing I am going to do when I retire is take time out and attend an AANA congress from start to finish. This has been something on my wish list for a while so I will hopefully be able to tick it off my list! I have the greatest respect for the CRNA’s and enjoy talking to them and learning more about nurse anaesthesia and their education in the States.

In 2008 the ASPAN Past President came to our conference in City Hall (this was a major achievement and put BARNA back on track that year), and over a drink in the pub afterwards we began talking about how fantastic it would be if we could join forces and do something for perianaesthesia nursing on an International level. Beware about plotting a plan and drinking alcohol! However, there was the birth of ICPAN (International Collaboration of PeriAnaesthesia Nurses). BARNA collaborated with IARNA (Irish Anaesthetic and Recovery Nurses), ASPAN and the Canadian Perianaesthesia Nurses Association and put on the inaugural ICPAN conference 2011 in Toronto. This was especially fun for me as I met a real life Mountie, and having fallen in love with Benton Fraser in Due South, I could hardly contain myself!(little things you know!) Niagara Falls – what a spectacle, one I will never forget either!

I do giggle to myself sometimes because when we were exploring names for this first conference we did think of PeriAnaesthesia Nurses International Conference of which the acronym is PANIC!! This was a great success and is still maintaining a biennial conference; they have formed into an official incorporated organisation and are affiliated to BARNA.

I would implore you to try and attend some of the International conferences. Don’t think you can’t, save up and take the plunge, you never know where it may lead you. Four of my nurses came to the WCNA 2018, two had hospital funding and two didn’t but they all came, and I have never seen a happier bunch! We are not very good at taking the plunge in the UK; perhaps it is that British reservedness. We brought the WCNA 2016 to the UK, the first and very likely the one and only time and the attendance form the UK was so poor. This was the biggest disappointed of my whole BARNA career as I really thought the support would be good. I repeatedly explained that this was for anaesthetic nurses, ODP’s, recovery nurses and anyone with an interest in anaesthetic and recovery speciality but maybe I didn’t reach out far enough. Regardless, this was a major achievement with attendance from fifty-five countries, although what I am trying to say is that you too could be part of these fantastic events.

So, have I inspired you? I hope I have. BARNA is very special and I will always hold her in my heart but it really is time for me to move on. At almost 43 years in the health service I’m not far away from retirement. With 36 years as an anaesthetic nurse I have seen so much, shared so much fun, laughter and tears. I was the luckiest of all people; I spent 30 years of my career as Senior Anaesthetic Sister with a wonderful man who was the Senior Anaesthetic Charge Nurse, Markku Viherlaiho – my partner in crime with BARNA too. How amazing is that? We shared the same vision and passion for anaesthetic nursing and fought for recognition for the speciality every day of our lives, sometimes with success and sometimes not so much but we tried so hard.

Anaesthetic and Recovery nursing is special and BARNA is there for you. Please think about how much we can achieve together, it just needs your commitment, passion and love for what you do.

Tom Hanks, when he played Forest Gump said ‘’my mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.” She was right, you never know what you are going to get but it really is worth taking the chance.

Thank you to everyone who made my dreams come true, including the patience of my family, and to those who gave me the opportunity. I can retire knowing that I gave the best I could and my life has been better because of it. Just remember, you may not end up where you thought you were going, but you will always end up where you were meant to be.

Thank you,

Love andbest wishes,

Manda Dunne


Manda's image for Chair page

Barna. British Anaesthetic and Recovery Nurses Association