In the spotlight

Interview with Nanda Uitslager, new Nurses Committee Chair

This past February, Nanda Uitslager became the new Nurses Committee Chair, taking over from Mary Kavanagh. We recently had the opportunity to talk with our new Committee Chair and asked her among other things about her background, her plans for the future, as well as the challenges associated with nursing in haemophilia and bleeding disorders in Europe.


Could you tell us a bit more about yourself?
After having spent three months in hospital when I was about five years old, I knew I wanted to become a nurse. Looking back, I think that the main reason was that I thought there was a lot that could be improved. Each morning the nurses gave me porridge and since I hated the smell of warm milk, other nurses would take it away and give me bread.
Why did they keep on giving me porridge? I got a lot of antibiotic i.m. shots and some nurses were better at it than others, why was that?
The “why” questions never left me. The “yes, but” is also still a favourite of mine.
After high school, I went to study to become a nurse. My first job as a nurse was on a haematology ward in Amsterdam and, after three years, I switched to the haematology and stem cell transplant ward in Utrecht. I loved that kind of interaction with patients, as within a short period you had to build a solid bond with them. I worked for 15 years in haematology. The ward was my workplace: the different shifts, the colleagues, the atmosphere during each shift. I loved it. By working a few early shifts, followed by evenings and ending up with seven nights, I had a lot of time off afterwards. Usually I went to my best friend in the Lake district (UK).
How did you get involved in haemophilia care?
The switch to haemophilia care was not intentional. My shoulder started to bother me and I couldn’t work the ward any more. Certain movements were painful, like giving iv medication. And after a stem cell transplant, the patients need a lot of iv medication.
So basically, I needed to switch. I remember thinking: chronic diseases, is that really for me? In hindsight, the answer is simple: YES, it is perfect for me. You build relationships with the patients and (extended) family over a longer period, and you get to see and know the different generations, which is a privilege.
I started out working a few days as a haemophilia nurse and after six years I thought perhaps I could become an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP). I combined the ANP-role with research in the beginning, but my heart lies with patient care.
At the moment, I work fulltime as an advanced nurse practitioner, still developing the ANP role at my hospital-based care and that fits like a glove for me.

What initially gave you the motivation to join the Committee?
The big motivator was that, in my opinion, nurses are the best at finding solutions and the worst at sharing that knowledge. So, perhaps, this committee can make a start to alter that or at least we can try. Organising an EAHAD Congress Allied Health Professionals Day Nurses Stream is something that I also really enjoy.

In your opinion what is the biggest challenge of the Committee?
I think the role of a physician is more or less the same throughout Europe. The biggest challenge for nurses is the fact that their role can differ per country. There are different levels of nurses, with their own tasks and responsibilities. So we have to focus on our most important task, which is caring for people, with the knowledge and resources that are available.
We would like to have input from nurses from all over Europe. Unfortunately, not all nurses have (or are allowed to have) the option to spend working hours on anything besides direct care. So, a challenge for us is to get and stay in contact with all nurses that are interested, but don’t have the available time or energy. That is why the Nurses Newsletter started. It goes out to our Nurses Network twice a year with updates on projects and the opportunity to share ideas, thoughts and research.
You will be the Nurses Committee Chair for the next two years. What are your plans for the Committee going forwards?
Getting more feedback and input from nurses around Europe would be so nice. It would be great if we can all learn more from each other. For example, creating a platform where a question can be asked and answered. All nurses do such an good job and your ideas are worth sharing. Therefore, we really want to know what it is that’s holding you back, besides having little time.
Perhaps we can help?
Having said that, we were amazed by the amount of topics and suggestions we got for the EAHAD 2023 AHP Day Nurses Stream!
What would you like to see next year at the EAHAD 2023 Allied Health Professionals Day, in Manchester, UK?
To have a face to face meeting again! I missed the easier interaction and networking during the last years. But we also got feedback that some nurses would like to maintain a hybrid component. This way more nurses could attend or at least hear/see the presentations.
My personal dream is that all multidisciplinary team members are seen as equal partners. This way, it would be just as normal for a physician to attend the AHP day as it is for nurses to attend the main programme. We should learn from each other. To be honest, the biggest plus of the virtual congress is being able to see the physiotherapy and psychosocial care stream at a later date. I was always a bit disappointed that I couldn’t attend those in the past.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for a nurse specialising in haemophilia care today?
The biggest challenge is the changing treatments, to keep up with the changes and inform patients about them, making sure that they get care tailored to their needs.
Another challenge is how can we as nurses build a solid network to help each other. The world is so divided. At the start of my career in bleeding disorders, about 75% of the bleeding disorders patients were not treated. That number hasn’t changed a lot since then. Although not a direct task for nurses, it is always in the back of my head.
Outside your work, what motivates you? Do you have any hobbies?
My son motivates me. It is so valuable to see a person grow, become independent, and create a strong ever-evolving bond with.
Of course, I should start listing “active” things, but, sorry, I like to cook and unfortunately love to eat. Reading recipe books or magazines and picking out new recipes to try is something I do on a regular basis.
I enjoy watching movies and read mostly detective stories, always in English. I like the English language, love its way with words. I am also a big fan of English stand-up comedians and comedy shows on TV. I have seen live Bill Bailey, Phill Jupitus, Mark Thomas, and Alan Davies to name a few. But a lot are still on my wish list. If possible I would like to visit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival again.
Finally, I like walking, preferably with somebody to talk and discuss love, joy, life, death and everything in between. Sometimes, though, I prefer doing it on my own, to clear my head from all the thoughts, worries and cobwebs.
I would like to thank EAHAD for allowing me to participate and all my colleagues at the Van Creveldkliniek for their support.