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'Nurses should be seen and treated as people with passions and lives'

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We talk to Kerri Wright, a part-time senior lecturer in the School of Health and Social Care at the University of Greenwich, who qualified as a nurse in 1995.

Why did you become a nurse?

My dad thought it was a good profession for a woman, with flexible hours to fit around family life. The interview answer is “that I am a caring person and want to care for people”.

Where did you train?

St Bartholomew School of Nursing and Midwifery, London.

What was your first job in nursing?

My first job as a qualified nurse was on a respiratory ward at Whipps Cross Hospital, London.

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

I find it hard to be vulnerable and say I have needs. I often respond defensively to people if I’m upset or struggling, when what I want most is some help and a hug.

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

My first job as a community nurse was in a team led by district nurse Cathy Maylin. Cathy believed in me and my abilities and, through this, taught me to believe in myself too.

What advice would you give someone starting out?

You can only care for others if you feel cared for yourself. Ensure you have time for yourself and self-care from day one throughout your career.

What keeps you awake at night?

My cat who insists on sitting on my pillow and washing himself, it and me.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Hearing stories of how students have cared for patients and made a difference to their lives.

What is your proudest achievement?

My relationship with my partner, Joanna.

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

Nurses are not being supported at work, particularly in acute settings, and I feel this is likely to continue having a negative effect on care and on the reputation of nurses.

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

I wanted to do medicine.

What job would you like to be doing in five years?

I would still like to be teaching and supporting nurses and student nurses in some capacity, but also want to be practising as a psychotherapist.

What makes a good nurse?

Nurses come into contact with patients and families when they are most vulnerable and often distressed. A good nurse remembers nursing is a privilege and responds to each patient with compassion and love.

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

Managers at all levels would stand with, not against, nurses and respect, not berate, them.

I would like nurses to be seen and treated as people with passions and lives, not just staff on a roster. Nurses need to be looked after, for example with free counselling, gyms and regular debriefing after shifts. We cannot care for others if we are not cared for ourselves.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

It would be very quiet and uneventful. A dog walk, a swim, a coffee in a cafe and I’m content.

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

This would definitely be my late mother. There are always many regrets and things left unsaid when someone dies suddenly.

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