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Staff spotlight: Parkinson's service coordinator

Alex McEwan - Parkinson's

Alex is the Wessex neurology Parkinson’s service coordinator at University Hospital Southampton (UHS), offering support to our patients living with Parkinson’s and helping to raise awareness of the condition.

‘Around thirty years ago, I was a healthcare support worker looking after people with severe behavioural issues. Wanting to expand on my skills and knowledge but remain in a caring role, I decided to go and study nursing at Keele University as a mature student. Once qualified, Southampton was an easy choice for me – I wanted to work in the field of neurology, and Southampton happens to have a world-renowned regional centre for neurology and neurosurgery.

‘Making the decision to specialise so early into a nursing career isn’t for everyone, but I knew what I wanted to do. Many of my peers chose to sign up for rotational posts before deciding upon where they wanted to settle – but that’s why a nursing career can be so great; there really is a role out there to suit everyone.

‘I started my UHS career in February of 2000 as a newly qualified nurse on the Stanley Graveson ward, a specialist neurology service, and haven’t left the neuro department since! Over the years I’ve relished attending various postgraduate courses offered by the University of Southampton and supported by UHS, and enjoyed the opportunity of being able to work across several different clinical areas within the Wessex Neurological Centre.

‘After spending some time as a ward manager, where I looked after the ward in which I first started my UHS career, I stepped into a newly created role as a Parkinson’s specialist nurse and service coordinator, and am one of only a handful of hospital-based specialist Parkinson’s nurses across the UK.

‘Since I started in this position, I’ve had the pleasure of setting up an entirely new clinical role and developing patient pathways from scratch, with the aim of improving support for newly diagnosed individuals. Witnessing the impact this role has had, and seeing patients reclaiming control of their lives, has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me.

‘As with any large organisation, the NHS is a complex network of individuals, and this means that at times there are challenges we face – I’d like there to be more of an awareness among healthcare professionals about Parkinson’s and how it can affect patients.’

Alex recommends that anyone considering a specialist career in this area first gets a broad background in looking after people with acute and long-term conditions, before moving into a more specific area in neurology nursing.

‘Looking forward, I’d like to become a prescriber, which would offer me an additional way of enhancing the service I provide to my patients. Additionally, I’d like to continue to raise awareness of Parkinson’s across UHS, by improving staff training at all levels throughout the Trust – from nurses to junior doctors and pharmacists – so that we can provide cohesive and well-rounded treatment to our patients living with this condition.’

If you're interested in beginning your journey towards a specialist nursing career, take a look at our current nursing vacancies here.