We talk to Elaine Pierce, principal lecturer and director for short programmes in leadership and service improvement at London South Bank University, who completed her general and midwifery training in the late 1970s.
Why did you become a nurse?
From a very young age when we played doctors and nurses, I always wanted to be the nurse.
Where did you train?
I did my general training at Tygerberg General Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. At the time, it was the biggest hospital in the southern hemisphere. Afterwards, I went straight into midwifery training at the Peninsula Maternity Hospital in Cape Town. Peninsula was closed after all non-whites in the area were forcibly removed during the apartheid regime.
What was your first job?
A midwife in a postnatal ward.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I like to think things through and can get annoyed with myself if I cannot think on my feet.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Take on board good practice and use your communication skills to share it with anyone and everyone, locally, nationally or internationally. Follow your dream. Mine has enabled me to travel to four continents, experience other nursing and medical practice, and share knowledge and skills.
If a person does not have inherent caring qualities, they will not sustain a career in nursing
What keeps you awake?
I am a worrier, period. If I have forgotten to do or say something, or I think I have said something wrong, I may lie awake, thinking about it.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
The “ah ha” feeling when students finally understand a concept.
What’s your proudest achievement?
I will mention two. The first was winning the prize for best practical nurse, out of all general training graduates.
The second was passing every unit of my BSc, when in my first year a lecturer said I would fail. In my final examinations, I was heavily pregnant and each paper was three hours long. I had to take cushions and walk around the hall every half hour. I was given no extra time. Two weeks later, my son was born.
What do you think is likely to change in nursing?
There will be two types of graduate nurse: the whizz-kid, able to manage the increasing technology; and
the all-round carer.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
Working in the UK for six months (spring and summer) to earn enough money to do voluntary work in Africa during the remaining six months.
What makes a good nurse?
If you do not have inherent nursing care qualities, you will not sustain a nursing career.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
We should adhere to the founding principles of the NHS - healthcare should be free to all from the cradle to the grave.
What’s your ideal weekend?
Staying in a cave on Devil’s Peak, part of the mountainous range forming the backdrop to Cape Town. I would enjoy the peace and quiet while watching the world below rushing around.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Mr Monroe in the ITV drama Monroe. He personifies a perfect neurosurgeon.