We talk to Carolyn Johnstone, lecturer in nursing at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Dundee, who has been a nurse for 24 years.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I can’t be sure, I never wanted to do anything else. My mum says when I was five I announced I was going to be a nurse and never changed my mind.
Where did you train?
It was then the Dundee College of Nursing, based at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
What was your first job?
Staff nurse in the photobiology unit. It was a great place to get used to my responsibility but after six months I knew I had to widen my experience so moved to an acute medical ward.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I am quite assertive but this can be perceived as aggression. I’ve learnt to take time to think about what I want to say or do.
From whom have you learnt most in your nursing career?
I have learnt the type of nurse I wanted to be (and not be) from those I have worked with over the years. Some were so set in their ways and unable to change and develop, care was based on habit; from them I learnt how important evidence-based care is. Maintaining high standards is also important; I have worked with many who show this is possible even with limited resources.
You will be a better nurse and achieve more personally and professionally by standing up for what is right
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Two people in the same situation will not react in the same way. Also, we have a responsibility to stand up for those in our care and speak out when needed. Don’t be tempted to conform for the sake of a good assessment. You will be a better nurse and achieve more personally and professionally by standing up for what is right.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Getting my first charge nurse post. I was 26 but had worked hard. I self-funded my studies and used my days off to attend most of my classes.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
Healthcare as a whole has to change to embrace the ageing population. Most importantlywe need to move away from discussing care of older adults as something that is somehow different: care of older adults is adult nursing and I hope nursing will adapt to this.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
Respect for others and an ability to show empathy. A good nurse is kind and can talk and listen to others.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I’d like to see an end to the slow erosion of the NHS’ founding principles. In Scotland we have been protected from the worst of the back-door privatisation NHS England has experienced. My dream is that independence will allow us to continue to have a healthcare system that is closer to the principles.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Spending time with friends and family. They have been there for every important event in my life. Having people who love you is so important.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
My grandparents. They were both so proud I was a nurse. They courted through the war and married shortly after it ended. They never spent a night apart and showed a devotion to each other that is an example to everyone in my family.