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Swansea Bay is a home from home for an overseas nurse whose role is unique in Wales

Image shows a smiling nurse outside a hospital building.

The allure of Swansea Bay has been too strong to resist for an overseas nurse whose role in Morriston Hospital is unique in Wales.

Five years ago, Saphira Hacuma became a headache clinical nurse specialist, transforming the lives of people living with debilitating pain.

Now, as she prepares for retirement, the mother-of-two has reflected on her on-off relationship with Swansea, dating back almost 20 years.

Saphira trained as a nurse in her home country of Zambia before arriving in the UK in 2003 when she began work in Sheffield.

“I joined Morriston Hospital in 2005 after my husband, Wallace, was offered a job here as a scrub nurse in theatres – a job he did until 2019 when he took early retirement,” said Saphira.

“I started as a nurse in trauma. As I recall, there were only five black nurses in the entire trust, all of whom have since left.

“I then moved to musculoskeletal, where I stayed until 2011.”

Saphira wanted to become a nurse practitioner but could not progress her career in that direction despite additional training.

So she went in another direction, training as a midwife with Swansea University and Singleton Hospital from 2011 until she qualified, graduating with first-class honours in 2013.

Even then she was unable to find work locally, so relocated to England. But, she said, she found herself drawn back to Swansea, which Saphira now regarded as her home.

“There were still no job opportunities in Swansea, so I went to Hywel Dda and worked as a midwife in Glangwili Hospital,” she said.

“I finally came back to Swansea after a couple of years, this time as an agency nurse. Because I loved this trust, I worked most of my shifts in Morriston and Singleton hospitals.

Image shows a smiling nurse outside a hospital building. “My last work as an agency nurse was in the neuro-ambulatory unit when it moved from Gower Ward to what is now the Jill Rowe Ambulatory Unit in 2018.”

The unit is a treatment and investigation day unit for patients with neurological disorders. It was named in honour of Jill Rowe, an inspirational senior sister at Morriston who had MS and died in 2011.

Saphira, working as an agency nurse, spent her first year there providing infusions and treatment for MS patients. She was also one of the health board’s first peer vaccinators.

And then, in 2019, her career took another turn when she was offered the role of headache clinical nurse specialist. It was the first of its kind in Wales and one of only 50 in the UK.

“I started it as a nurse-led service with a few patients with migraines and any other type of headache,” she said.

“Now the service, which few people know about, has expanded to see more than 1,000 patients a year, from mid-Wales to Bridgend.

“I have learnt so much, and I have represented the health board in many conferences, both local and international, most recently in Barcelona.

“I feel proud to be a Welsh nurse wherever I go for conferences and showcase what we do in Wales in providing this service and the treatments available, some innovative.

“It has been a very rewarding job, the best job I’ve ever done. I’ve loved it. People come in, crying because of the pain. And I give them treatment and they’re like, oh my goodness, this has been a life-changer.”

With Wallace having taken early retirement six years ago, Saphira has decided to follow suit so she can spend more time with her family including her two children and granddaughter, all living in Scotland.

“I don’t have any plans to return to nursing. Not yet. I want to do some travelling but then when I come back, I might see if I can do one or two days through the nurse bank.

“Never say never. Once a nurse, always a nurse. I have been doing this for 39 years and I will miss it.”

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