We talk to Bernie Carter, professor of children’s nursing at the University of Central Lancashire and Alder Hey Children’s Foundation Trust, and clinical professor at the University of Tasmania, who has been a nurse for 37 years.
- Why did you become a nurse?
My decision came from seeing television images of children who had been badly injured in the Vietnam war and were in pain and frightened.
- Where did you train?
I did combined training (RSCN/SRN) so I did my children’s at Great Ormond Street and my adult’s at Addenbrooke’s.
- What was your first job?
Staff nurse in a children’s general surgery ward although, being a ward at Great Ormond Street, there wasn’t anything very general about the surgery.
- What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
Not being able to switch off.
- From whom have you learnt the most in your career?
The children have taught me much - courage in the face of adversity, and the importance of a sense of humour and of being kind. Hannah Wright, the senior sister on my first ward, was a beacon of brilliance. She taught me about people skills, management and leadership.
- What advice would you give someone starting out?
Celebrate being a nurse. Work hard. It is an amazing job and it has endless possibilities. You can make a positive difference to people every single day.
- What keeps you up at night?
Marking and writing.
- What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Seeing research ideas develop and ultimately change practice. Being part of students’ journeys - I get a thrill when they achieve their dreams.
- What’s your proudest achievement?
Lots of thing: astonishing myself (and my dad) by getting a PhD, writing Stories of Children’s Pain with Joan Simons, helping to alleviate children’s pain and helping to set up the Children’s Nursing Research Unit at Alder Hey.
- What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
In children’s nursing, clinical academic nurses will blossom at all levels in trusts, particularly at senior level, with more joint posts at associate professor and professor level.
- What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
A cartographer or a human geographer.
- What job would you like to be doing in five years?
The job I am already doing, although I’d like fewer forms and much less bureaucracy.
- What makes a good nurse?
Passion, intelligence, kindness, commitment and noticing the things that can make a difference; these are the same whether you are work in research, clinical practice, management or education.
- If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
That the parents of children with disabilities and complex care needs did not have to fight to get services and that all children had access to community children’s nursing.
- What’s your ideal weekend?
Time with people I love, a good cycle ride in the sun, time to read, a chance to do something creative with yarns and fabrics, and time to practise my flute.
- If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
I should say someone famous but I’m rubbish at meeting new people. So I’d spend time with Jon, my partner - he’s lovely.