We talk to Cheryll Adams, founding director of the new Institute of Health Visiting. She qualified as a nurse in 1978 and as a health visitor in 1982.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I did a four-year BSc Hons in Human Biology. I could have chosen research, teaching or nursing for the 13 months out in the third year; nursing required just an extra six months on graduation as an intern staff nurse. After a one-month trial period I wanted to do more.
Where did you train?
St George’s Hospital, London.
What was your first job?
Staff nurse in accident and emergency at St George’s - then you could be left in charge at night despite being junior and I was. You learn fast and it was an incredible challenge.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
My enthusiasm for doing things I believe in means I can take on too much at a cost to my family.
Whom have you learnt most from in your nursing career?
I have probably learnt most from the families I have worked with. I have been inspired by nurses like Professor Judith Ellis, who isn’t afraid to tackle difficult issues and see through major quality projects such as Essence of Care.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Embrace the opportunities available; you never know where you might end up. Don’t be afraid to speak out about what you believe in or what worries you - that is how we get positive change.
What is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
The demand for it. We must ensure the conditions for practice - the research base, education, training, staff ratios, skill mix and use of evidence in practice - are optimal.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I was also interested in being an anthropologist. I think there are a lot of overlaps between health visiting and social anthropology as both require observing family and social systems.
Don’t be afraid to speak out about what you believe in or what worries you - that is how we get positive change
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I’d like to still have an interest in the IHV but am also hoping for a new role as a grandmother.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
Common sense, emotional intelligence, compassion, good communication skills, being a team player and wanting to embrace knowledge and develop professionally.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I’d give health visitors their autonomy and preventive role back. Once they really influenced health at a community level. Today too much time is spent doing tasks considered by others to be commissioning priorities rather than making their own assessments of local need and priority, and doing what their education and training tells them may make the greatest difference to the health of a child, family or community.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Being on, in or beside water. I find water therapeutic. Then being with family and/or friends, going to the theatre or visiting new places.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
BBC journalist John Simpson. I have heard him speak and read his books. He is a fountain of knowledge on how the world works and cultural forces. He knows how they can be influenced - I find that fascinating.