We talk to Karen Keighley, lead nurse for infection prevention and control at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, who qualified 15 years ago.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
It was an accident. I was attending an environmental health course at college, which involved visiting a hospital ward. All my family are nurses and carers and had told me what an awful job nursing was, so I wasn’t looking forward to it. However, by the end of the day, I had fallen in love with nursing.
Where did you train?
I am proud to have completed my training at Salford Royal Hospitals Foundation Trust.
What was your first job in nursing?
A recovery nurse at Hope Hospital. I loved it. I nursed all kinds of people with every medical condition who were having all kinds of surgical procedures. People are at their most scared and vulnerable when they go into theatre, so when I picked them up from the ward, I had to develop the communication skills to make them feel safe.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I find it difficult to say no.
Whom have you learnt most from in your nursing career and why?
There are so many inspirational nurses and leaders from whom I have learnt a great deal, but the patients are what guide your work. They teach you how they need to be nursed.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Learn how to wash your hands properly. You can save many lives with this simple skill.
What keeps you awake?
My babies. I’ve learnt that to be at my most effective, I need to give 100% at work and then when I leave I need to give 100% to my family. That way I am always ready for the next day.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Teaching people about infections, especially when I can reduce their anxiety.
What’s your proudest achievement?
I received a star award from my trust for improving the quality of care in 2010.
Learn how to wash your hands properly. You can save many patients’ lives with this simple skill
What do you think is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
Visionary nurse leaders could help nurses to develop into the health professionals our patients need us to be.
Which job would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
An environmental health officer. I’ve always had a passion for cleanliness.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
A “doer”, that is someone who will try even if they don’t know the outcome; someone who will stand up for you; someone who will go to the next building to get you an extra blanket when you are cold. A good nurse is someone who notices and does all the little things.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
We should have more national work on infection prevention. A national infection prevention policy manual would be great.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
My children and husband, the beach and a fabulous picnic.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Queen Elizabeth II - her leadership skills are phenomenal. It is inspirational how she holds the Commonwealth together and her family while in the public eye.