We talk to Caroline Shuldham, director of nursing and clinical governance at Royal Brompton and Harefield Foundation Trust and honorary clinical senior lecturer at Imperial College School of Medicine, who has been in nursing for 41 years.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I lacked confidence about my ability to go to university so looked for something I felt suited me. I was attracted by the idea of working in a hospital while learning and earning.
Where did you train?
St Bartholomew’s Hospital.
What was your first job in nursing?
A staff nurse on a medical ward.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I can be too cautious and see now where being bolder might have been more effective. You have to take some calculated risks.
Whom have you learnt most from in your nursing career and why?
There are many, not all of them nurses, but I have chosen Sister Waring (Mary Walker) on my first ward, as the values, confidence and experience I gained there sustained me in my training when I might have given up.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the profession?
Remember the patient and their family are at the heart of what you do, don’t be afraid, take opportunities and give and accept help.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Watching staff develop and achieve more than they expected, especially if it involves improving care.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Receiving my OBE from the Queen at Windsor Castle was a wonderful experience.
What do you think is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
Developments in diagnostic and treatment techniques, together with increasing technology will require nurses to change their roles, be flexible and combine well the technical and caring aspects of nursing. A good example is the physical, psychological and social care required by patients at Royal Brompton and Harefield Trust with cardiac or respiratory failure, and the related support to their families.
Which job would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
At school I was good at French so I thought about studying languages.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I have been in nursing roles for so long it has to be something that involves all I have learnt. I will know it when I see it.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
It has to be intellect, ability to establish excellent relationships with all sorts of people, empathy, commitment and courage to do the right thing. That will do as a start.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Mountains, exercise (walking or skiing), great company and a convivial meal at the end of the day.
If you could spend an hour in someone’s company, who would it be and why?
My maternal grandmother. I am told she was energetic, enterprising, committed to women’s rights and education, and she had 10 children. I would love to have known her.