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Heather leads the way

2 January, 2018
Heather Smith
Heather Smith

Advanced practice radiographer, Heather Smith, has been appointed as the lead vascular access practitioner at University Hospital Southampton.

The vascular access service was initially nurse led and developed to meet the rising demand for image guided peripherally inserted central catheters (PICC lines). The service ensures the safe and effective insertions of PICCs and midlines for patients requiring long term IV administration of antibiotics, chemotherapy or nutrition.

PICC lines are inserted under image guidance in radiology or theatres, and the service has also developed the use of ECG guidance using the Sherlock tip location system which has allowed radiation free PICC line placements on wards and in clinic rooms.

Heather, who graduated from Exeter University, was appointed a senior interventional radiographer at UHS in September 2015, having developed a specialist interest in interventional radiography whilst working at the Royal Free and Jersey General.

Heather applied for one of the advanced practice vascular access (nursing) posts and soon gained the knowledge and skills to work independently as an advanced practitioner. She has now been appointed as the band 7 lead practitioner, responsible for the operational management of the service.

Since taking up this post, Heather began a programme of service development, including setting up a pre-assessment service, producing more streamlined paperwork and digitising all paper records, developing a new database for auditing purposes, undertaking point prevalence studies to target areas of improvement, setting up regular teaching sessions to facilitate education and training, and initiating a new midline trial to improve line longevity.

She has appointed and trained two staff members who are both working independently and have inserted more than 1000 catheters.

Heather said, “In this role I work very closely with multiple teams including: radiology, infection prevention, intestinal failure team, cystic fibrosis unit, lymphoma team and TYA oncology to optimise the service we provide.

"I am extremely proud of what we have achieved in such a short time period," she continued.

"We provide a fantastic service and receive a lot of positive feedback. We have a very hard working team made up of vascular access practitioners, RDAs and an administrator, always striving to provide a gold standard vascular access service. Despite my work to date, there is always much more to do and I am relishing the opportunity to be directly involved in the further evolution of the service”.  

John Beamer, head of radiography added, “I am extremely proud of the way Heather has taken on and developed this opportunity and is now leading the way.

"Heather epitomises the forward thinking and empowerment culture here at Southampton, is an excellent innovator, leader and role model and a perfect example of just what radiographers are capable of achieving.”

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