We talk to Susan Hamer, organisational and workforce development director and lead nurse at the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network, who has been a nurse for 33 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
I had some nudging from my dad to do something at university that would lead to a paid job. In terms of interests, it was either oceanography or nursing. The paid work criteria meant nursing won; fortunately I liked it from day one.
Where did you train?
A social sciences combined with nursing BA at Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic.
What was your first job?
I was a research staff nurse, spending four days a week
on a general surgical ward
and one day doing nursing research.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I have to work hard at listening well as I like action… any action.
From whom have you learnt most in your nursing career?
Nursing is like being part of an extended family. Friendship networks often offer support and are a good way to learn. They are a strong feature of women-dominated professions.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Stay focused on the present but also have a constant eye on the future. This helps you adapt faster to the needs of care.
What keeps you awake?
The scale of change and consequent loss of some very wise nurses who were important anchors for our system is creating a leadership gap. This is and will be a problem.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Acting as a broker between parts of the system, thereby helping to make change more effective.
What is your proudest achievement?
Being made a fellow of the Queen’s Nursing Institute for my work in practice development.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
The role of technology as a key enabler to nurses’ ambitions can’t happen soon enough. It will help us to do much more.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I ought to say marine biologist - documentary film maker Philippe Cousteau has a lot to answer for. Realistically, I am very public service focused, so something with politics would have been fun, but nursing has so many options - it has never restricted my ambitions.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
A job when I finally get to apply everything I have learnt into a nice, predictable nursing system…. dream job of course.
What makes a good nurse?
An inherent, constant interest in people and an ability to learn and celebrate the possible.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I would love a magic wand. I would ensure primary care and public health were always our starting point and acute care our last.
What is your ideal weekend?
Sunshine, friends, being outdoors and nice food cooked by someone else… oh, and chocolate of course.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Our first state registered nurse Ethel Bedford Fenwick. She was such an able and political individual and those early nurse networks looked like such fun.