Why I Became a Nurse - Devika Ratnayaka, senior staff nurse, ITU, Harefield Hospital

Hi! I’m Devika, a senior staff nurse in the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) at Harefield Hospital. 

I first started my nursing training in Sri Lanka, my home country, and while working as an intensive care nurse, I was offered the chance to work abroad. This opportunity was a dream come true; I was excited to explore, gain knowledge and expand my skills. Devika Ratnayaka

I joined the AICU at Royal Brompton Hospital in 1998 and was lucky enough to join a highly skilled and hardworking team. It was an excellent learning environment where I could develop and further my skills and knowledge. Overall, it was such a significant part of my journey in getting to where I am today, and I thank them all for the memories and lifelong friends I have gained.

I later moved to Harefield Hospital, where I still work today. I arrived hoping to expand my nursing training in heart and lung transplants and life-saving mechanical circulatory support devices. I'm now an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) clinical nurse specialist caring for ECMO patients. My colleagues and I work together and support each other to achieve the best possible patient care. 

We care for patients with Left Ventricular Assist Devices and other mechanical devices such as the Impella, used for temporary ventricular support in patients with depressed heart function. The Impella is a device designed to help pump blood in patients who require short-term support. 

My colleagues and I find it amazing to see a patient’s transformation from when we first meet them to when they leave us fully recovered or for a heart transplant. It’s truly inspiring how life-changing these devices are. As a multidisciplinary team, we work together to improve lives using these devices. What we can achieve when working together, compiling all our strength and knowledge, is truly beautiful.

As much as we have good times and stories to share, there are equally heart-breaking moments and rough times that we go through. We try to help the patient and their families through difficult periods by offering spiritual support and fulfilling special last requests during those times.

Another fantastic opportunity I have working as part of the Critical Care Follow up Clinic is getting to speak to discharged long-term ICU patients, helping with their psychological health and hearing about their journeys to recovery. It’s truly heart-warming to hear that patients who have been in the ICU for so long are now returning to their old lives, getting back to their favourite hobbies and reconnecting with family and friends. Hearing these stories of how patients have turned their lives around is genuinely one of the best aspects of being a nurse. It’s rewarding, and I couldn’t be happier doing my job. 

As human beings, I believe it is our moral duty to love and care for others and being able to fulfil this through my vocation brings me the utmost happiness. The relationships we build over the years, whether with our colleagues or our patients and their families, mean the most to me. The little laughter we share during the dark moments, and the tears we shed when all is good, are the memories I will hold forever.