From self-confessed sci-fi nerd to nurse consultant!

10 January 2022

Born in Italy, Alberto (or Alb) talks about a love of music and how his passion for nursing brought him to the UK and Kingston Hospital, which is the first NHS trust in the UK with two nurse consultants in dermatology.

Alberto lived in Italy for 26 years before moving to the UK in 2007. After eight years at St George’s, Tooting as a specialist nurse in dermatology, Alberto joined the dermatology team at Kingston Hospital as a clinical nurse specialist in 2016.

Sharing his family roots, he says: “I was born near Treviso, in the northeast of Italy, which is about 22 miles from Venice. Treviso is the land of at least two great things: one is prosecco and the other is tiramisu. My mum and dad live in Italy, and I have a younger brother.”

Having a passion for music and science growing up, Alberto shares: “I’ve always been a bit of a nerd. I indulge myself watching sci-fi action movies like The Avengers. I love science, particularly biology, however when I was much younger I loved music. When I was a teenager, music took so much of my head, I could have been better at school. I remember being in the car with my uncle, and there was a thunderstorm and Pink Floyd’s live album Pulse was playing. That was the moment I knew I wanted to learn to play the guitar!”

Graduating from Padua in Italy – one of the oldest medical schools in the world – Alberto adds: “I decided to study nursing simply because I liked the subject, although I didn’t have a clear idea of what a nurse was back then. I’d never been to a hospital, but I liked the subjects – it’s very scientific and you get to help people. For four years I specialised in critical care. I worked in emergency care and the ambulance service because they don’t have paramedics in Italy – specialist nurses work as paramedics.”

After Alberto came to the UK, he wanted to find a specialty to master. He says: “I always had an interest in wound care and skin surgery. An opportunity came up to work as a bank nurse in dermatology at St George’s. They noticed that I was really passionate about the specialty, and I think for that reason they offered me further career development.

“Unfortunately, in Italy, nursing is seen as an auxiliary profession, so you don’t have much autonomy. You’re seen pretty much like an assistant of the doctor. I am grateful to the NHS as it recognises the potential for non-medical professions like nurses, specialist nurses, and physician associates. It’s thanks to that mentality that I have had the opportunity to evolve professionally. In the UK I feel really valued and respected as an individual, but also as a clinician. I felt compelled to give something back to the patients, so I progressed, and I became a nurse consultant.”

Working with Saskia Reeken, who is also a nurse consultant at Kingston, Alberto adds: “We work so well together – we became a dynamic duo. It’s all thanks to Dr Jana, Nic Kane and Justine Sweet. They saw potential for the service to develop a pathway for patients that is completely nurse led. We started with three, and now we have a team of eight CNSs. We are proud of the holistic service we offer our patients and are always looking at ways to improve.”

“We work alongside a great team of consultant dermatologists, and we integrate our working activity with them very well.

“We treat patients with chronic skin disease. People often dismiss these conditions, but actually we see severe cases with large areas of the body affected and these skin conditions can also be linked to a number of health problems, such as obesity, depression, cardiac disease and diabetes.”

Research is also important to Alberto. He says: “I’m a principal investigator for a couple of national studies about psoriasis. Dermatology at Kingston Hospital was recognised nationally as a high study recruitment site by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)”

Alberto is also one of the clinical leads for the South West London Dermatology Network. He adds: “As a network we are looking at how dermatology patients will receive the same high standard of care across the hospital trusts in South West London. We are also looking into implementing Teledermatology. It is an exciting time.”

When asked what the most rewarding part of his job is, Alberto says: “Helping patients with chronic skin disease. These people have often been suffering with their condition for decades, but after we’ve treated them, they are like a new person and can live their life!”

What one thing would improve Alberto’s quality of life? “For the UK to have proper summer days with 26-degree heat and sunshine, but I guess you can’t have everything!”

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