'Make sure you get support for the emotional labour you undertake every working day'
We talk to Yvonne Sawbridge, senior fellow at the University of Birmingham Health Services Management Centre, who has been a nurse for 30 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
I did some work experience and loved the atmosphere on the ward and how everyone wanted to help patients. I thought I was too squeamish to do nursing but, after doing a few jobs, decided I really wanted to do it.
Where did you train?
Good Hope School of Nursing in Birmingham. We wore hats!
What was your first nursing job?
Staff nurse on a male medical ward in Solihull Hospital.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I can be a bit bullish when I think I have the answer. My teams have challenged me and seeing they often have better ideas has helped me continue striving to overcome this trait.
Whom have you learnt most from in your career and why?
Those in direct care as that’s what matters. I found Binnie and Titchen’s book Freedom to Practise inspirational. It’s about implementing good patient-centred care and what a challenge this can be.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Strive to retain your idealism and make sure you get support for the emotional labour you undertake every working day.
What keeps you awake at night?
Stories about uncaring nurses. While I see many, many more examples of good care, poor care is out there – I have seen it. I wish we had a magic solution.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Being a critical friend of the NHS. I have analysed some complexities of modern healthcare and their impact. I coauthored the recent Health Services Management Centre paper Time to Care and hope to use its findings in research to identify solutions.
What is your proudest achievement?
Leading a project in which a group of community nurses developed a home intravenous antibiotic service. They had such passion and belief – all I had to do was unblock a few obstacles.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
I thought nurse consultants would be the way forward, with nurses staying in practice as well as being able to influence the system, but this doesn’t appear to have happened despite evidence to support it. One certainty is that we will always need nurses who can understand and make decisions and provide compassionate care … and maybe hats will make a comeback?
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
Retired. I seem strangely attracted to gardening.
What makes a good nurse?
The ability to empathise with anyone, engendering trust and managing anxiety. This is much harder to do than it sounds.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I would make sure that the complexities of caring were discussed and no longer invisible, and nurses had systematic support to ensure they can carry on caring.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
A meal with my husband and children on Saturday night, followed by a lazy Sunday pottering in the garden.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Alex McLeish. I am an Aston Villa supporter and I’d like to understand his thinking.
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