We talk to Jackie Smith, who has been chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council since October 2012
Why did you decide to work at the NMC?
I joined the NMC because I thought I could make a difference. Previously, at the General Medical Council, I was part of the radical change it had to make to become focused on public protection, after Shipman.
What is your background?
Law and regulation.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
Impatience. Change takes time and you understand more as you get older but I still don’t like it!
From whom have you learnt most in your career and why?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with several inspirational leaders, people who see what is best for the public and the service we should provide. For me, doing the right thing matters most.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Read the NMC Code every so often. If your role does not allow you to live up to it, say so.
What keeps you awake at night?
Something major and unexpected breezing out of nowhere that pushes us off course. One of the good things about the Francis report was how much of the proposed changes to education, the Code, cooperation with other regulators, was work we had done or started.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Our NMC staff survey shows our staff live and breathe public protection. We are starting to receive positive feedback based on real, measurable, improvement.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Stabilising the NMC at a time of real crisis and beginning to make progress. I believe in the NMC and it matters. The public and the professions need it. It needs to serve them better but we are getting there.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
The NMC will introduce revalidation, which will make meaningful appraisal the rule. The public will understand most nurses are competent, effective and keen to stay up to date. All nurses coming into the profession will be under the 2010 standards, which balance well the academic and practical hands-on aspects of training. I hope these changes will keep our fitness to practise process to a tiny minority.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
This one of course.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
There are thousands of good nurses. What the public wants is nurses who provide excellent care around the clock and this is the challenge.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
No health policy would be announced without some quiet discussion between relevant parties first - what is the problem you want to solve, have you evidence, is this idea the only solution?
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Walking and reading. I make sure I always set aside some time for relaxing.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Hillary Clinton. How did she manage to juggle home, work and politics?