This week we are really excited to introduce our guest blogger, gender nurse, Iffy Middleton EN, RN, BSc (Hons) or Saint Iffy as she is known in the Trans community. Iffy is a member of the British Association of Gender Specialists and is the lead nurse for Gender Services at Parkside Hospital. She has been working in this area for 14 years and has presented all over the world. Highly decorated for her work within gender (previous winner of both the NHS Hero award and the Caring Category in the Quality Awards for West London Mental Health Trust).
We chatted to Saint Iffy to ask what she does on a day to day basis and try to understand what makes her tick.
How did you end up specialising as a Gender Nurse?
By accident. I was managing a large theatre complex in London and the job description went to my education lead who had worked with Mr Bellringer previously and he thought of her. She brought it in saying not her cup of tea – I smiled, she set up a meeting and the rest is history.
Tell us about a normal day in your job?
I wish my days were normal, I guess that’s why I really enjoy it as every day is different, all my patients are different. I can be running a consultant surgical clinic or running my own pre- and post-operative clinics. I can be doing pre-assessment clinics, on the ward supervising, taking packs out post surgery, teaching vaginal dilation or discharging the patients.
I also find time to do audit and research work as I am running a mobile telephone and email service for my patients and my role at The London Gender Identity Clinic in endocrinology and health or surgical clinics.
What are you most excited about in your job or life right now?
I have just been elected to the BAGIS council (British Association of Gender Specialists) and I am helping set up a European Nurses / Physician’s Assistant group so we can do audit and research and become the voices for our patients at our European and World Association Conferences. I do love teaching and presenting and have travelled far and wide.
Who inspires you?
This is a difficult one. I was lucky when I was training back in the 1970’s to have some great charge nurses and sisters who encouraged me along my pathway as I started out as an enrolled nurse. Initially I just wanted to be the bedside nurse but one manager saw something and pushed me into doing my conversion to first level nursing. I owe her a lot because following my successful conversion I have never looked back.
However I guess my patients are my biggest influence because I see how some of their journies are far from smooth and if I can help change that pathway I will try 100% to help to do that.
What are the biggest challenges faced by your patients?
Lack of understanding out there in some healthcare areas, including GP practices and A&E departments. Also waiting times once referred into specialised clinics. Patients have their own personal challenges as well and these differ considerably from name calling to hate crime as well as family and peer pressure.
How would you like to see gender services change in the future?
I guess solutions to the above would be great.
How would you advise a patient to prepare before their surgery?
Keep fit and healthy, not be overweight or smoke as these can compromise blood supply. Check early whether you require genital electrolysis as this can be a long process. Have a list of questions for your surgeon when you see them.
Ensure you have support and travel arrangements on discharge from hospital. Stock up at home you don’t want to be popping out to the shops on day 1!
What are your top 3 tips for a healthy recovery after surgery?
Positive outlook, eat healthily and take things easily.
If you weren’t a Gender Nurse Specialist what job would you do?
I’d love to look after big cats in a zoo or work with animals in some way.
How do you relax?
Relax? What’s that …. Maybe a nice meal out with a glass of wine.