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60 seconds with...Dee Sissons, director of nursing at Marie Curie Cancer Care

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We talk to Dee Sissons, director of nursing at Marie Curie Cancer Care, who has been a nurse for 35 years

Why did you become a nurse?

My mum was a nurse. As a girl I spent a lot of time in hospitals visiting her and being given sweets by the ward sisters. As I was in hospitals so much I felt comfortable there.

Where did you train?

Sheffield School of Nursing.

What was your first job?

I was a staff nurse on a cardiology ward.

What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?

I’m quite extroverted. It’s only in the last few years that I realised how it affects people who are not as extroverted as I am. I’ve learnt to balance this better and use it positively.

Whom have you learnt most from in your nursing career?

From the first ward sister I worked for who taught me about confidence and its importance, to the chief executive who helped me navigate internal politics and external partnerships, I have had many wonderful teachers.

What advice would you give someone starting out?

Nursing is a calling. Don’t let your work get stale and look for ways to progress yourself and your practice. It’s a challenging job at all levels. When you encounter difficulties, use your personal and professional networks to find the best solutions - talk to people, don’t be insular. Finally, as a nurse, I have always felt that I wanted to look after people the way I would want someone to look after my own mum and dad.

What keeps you awake?

Safeguarding - protecting vulnerable adults or children from abuse or neglect. I was shielded from the realities of safeguarding before I started working in commissioning, but now I think about it constantly.

What is your proudest achievement?

Professionally, getting my degree and my position at Marie Curie Cancer Care. Personally, my family.

What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?

A culture of compassion and being more ambitious for patients and their care will come into focus. There will also be more community and ambulatory care.

Being a good nurse is about being properly empathetic, relating to and understanding your patients, not just comforting them

What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?

I would have gone into acting. The only things I looked up when thinking about careers were nursing and drama school.

What makes a good nurse?

This is about being properly empathetic, not just sympathetic - relating to and understanding your patients, not just comforting them. If you have common sense, sound thinking, and empathy, you will be more than able to deliver all of the 6Cs of nursing.

If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?

It would be to get rid of some of the paperwork, but to do that we need better systems for communicating. Some paperwork is inevitable, but it feels like so much more than when I entered nursing.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

A glass of good wine, nice food, and good company.

If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?

Definitely John F Kennedy. He was a charismatic and courageous leader. He had a lot of difficult decisions to make, and I would have loved to know more about his thought processes and strategies.

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