Julie Romano


What do you do when a ward in your local hospital is failing? Staff sickness rates are up, vacancies are difficult to fill, personal development reviews are not completed, patients and their relatives are not happy and six out of seven ward standards are not being met.

Bring in matron Julie Romano – one of the first nurses to achieve the gold standard of the Trust’s ‘Nursing with Pride’ awards. More than a breath of fresh air, Julie is a powerhouse of determination, a nurse with a vocation, who cares about the patients she is responsible for and the families they love.

Coming from a background in retail management, Julie (42) recognised her calling to care and abandoned material trappings to study nursing nearly 15 years ago. No ordinary matron, she will lift you up with kindness. Her smile lights up a room and draws you close. When Julie says it will be alright you somehow know it will.

In 1999 Julie left the heady world of expensive shoes as she abandoned her retail management role for a luxury footwear brand to study nursing. Fast forward to 2012 when she took up her first matron’s position in Sandwell Hospital’s Priory 2 ward, and literally turned the ward around with her inspirational leadership style.

She explained; “When I took up my role I knew it wouldn’t be easy, so I looked at where things were going wrong. I had one-to-ones with all my staff and realised that there was no perception that the ward was failing. Studying closely it was obvious that staff were doing the right things and patient care was a priority, however it was in the details that we fell down, so that was obviously the place to start.

“I like to go ‘under the radar’ and find out what happens at grass root level. I instigated a set of motivational changes at rapid pace, which meant that every week for 12 weeks we made three changes.”

What that meant for patients was a highly skilled and energetic multi-disciplinary team dedicated to their care, and a transformed environment, not least of which is a new dining room where patients are encouraged to eat their meals in a social setting.

A weekly Matron’s Clinic and daily ‘Visibility Round’ ensured that patients and relatives had opportunities to raise any concerns or pass on compliments. The result of all the changes was that after three months complaints about the ward stopped completely and there have been no complaints about the standard of nursing for over 12 months.

Julie added: “It has been hard work, but immensely satisfying. We now meet all our ward standards and in October last year won the Trust Staff and Patient Engagement Award 2013. I’m very conscious that I can leave the ward at the end of a busy day, but our patients can’t. It is up to us to get them fit and well quickly so they can move on with their lives.”