We talk to Jan Quallington, head of the Institute of Health and Society, University of Worcester, who has been a nurse since 1981.
Why did you become a nurse?
I wanted to make a difference. My mother was hospitalised a lot when I was a child and nursing seemed worthwhile.
Where did you train?
University College Hospital, London
What was your first job?
Staff nurse on an acute medical ward.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
Impatience. I get carried away with my own enthusiasm and think everyone else shares it.
From whom have you learnt most in your nursing career?
When I was a student a ward sister taught me that high standards were expected in every nursing interaction, with no exceptions. I have carried this philosophy into all my roles. She modelled person-centred care - she made time for every individual and made them feel valued and cared about, in spite of many distractions in a busy ward.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Be proud to be a nurse. It is a very demanding career but very rewarding. Be courageous, hold firmly onto your values and care for others as you would wish to be cared for yourself.
What keeps you awake?
Prioritising numerous demands, and particularly appreciating that practice learning is a high-risk area because it is not under the university’s direct control. It relies on excellent partnerships, processes and information to ensure students and patients are protected.
What is your proudest achievement?
My two daughters, who are exceptionally well rounded and capable young adults.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
As nurses become more educated, more opportunities and new specialist roles will emerge, many outside acute care. Nursing must reassert its values, and make these central to all interactions to restore public confidence.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I would probably have been in a leadership/management role, but it’s difficult to say because nursing has been so influential in shaping who I am now.
Be courageous, hold firmly onto your values and care for others as you would wish to be cared for yourself
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
Having just begun this role, I may still be in it. I would like to have contributed significantly to the development of the university, specifically to have been influential in contributing to shaping future healthcare and healthcare education.
What makes a good nurse?
Someone who models core nursing values in their life and is an excellent communicator, in both interpreting cues and responding to others.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
The imperative to be “busy”, which affects time that could be spent with patients.
What is your ideal weekend?
One of two extremes - a busy city break including the theatre, or a country hotel weekend with walks and lots of fresh air.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
The suffragettes (can I have more than one person?). Without their vision and courage, I would not have had the opportunities I have had as an independent, educated and capable woman.