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'Make your job as interesting and rewarding as possible - if you can’t, move on'

We talk to Daniel Kelly, Royal College of Nursing professor of nursing research at Cardiff University, who has worked in nursing practice, education and research for over 33 years.

Why did you become a nurse?

After leaving school, I found a job as a nursing assistant for a few weeks at London’s Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability. I ended up staying for a year. I wanted to go to university, and decided to do a nursing degree.

Where did you study?

At the University of Edinburgh. My BSc in Social Science and Nursing took almost five years. I studied diverse subjects such as English literature, archaeology and psychology as well as nursing studies.

What was your first job in nursing?

Staff nurse in the head and spinal injuries unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?

Working long days to meet deadlines. I now protect my weekends.

From whom have you learnt most in your career and why?

As a charge nurse in medical oncology at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, I worked with some fantastic nurses. They had high care standards, were compassionate towards patients and families and also highly intelligent and confident. They taught me the value of having a great team.

What advice would you give to a nurse starting out?

Enjoy the job you do, make it as interesting and rewarding as possible – if you can’t, move on.

What keeps you awake?

Not very much to be honest; maybe a good book.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Seeing a project through from the initial idea to the end, publishing the findings and, hopefully, seeing something change as a result.

What is your proudest achievement?

My relationship, which has sustained me through all phases of my career.

What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?

Nursing is going through a difficult phase and must keep asserting its place. The NHS will always need good nurses; the challenge will be making it an attractive and rewarding career choice. The stakes are high.

What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?

Architecture or the arts perhaps, but I have learnt that every job has its ups and downs. The secret is balancing work with enjoying life; oncology nursing teaches you that.

What makes a good nurse?

Like the staff nurses I mentioned, it is having a real interest in the job, the right education, a caring attitude and attention to detail. A good sense of humour helps too.

If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?

I would drop the health bill. The NHS needs to evolve but I cannot see how the proposals will benefit the majority.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

A mixture of meeting friends, going to the theatre or cinema, a long Sunday walk and spending time with my partner.

If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. I have read his biography and have had a long-standing interest in the Apollo space programme. I think his life is a lesson in leadership, achievement and modesty.

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