We talk to Janice Stevens, managing director of Health Education West Midlands, who started her nurse training in 1977.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I am not 100% sure. My dad was in and out of hospital for most of my childhood so I spent a lot of time running down hospital corridors and watching nurses at work. I think this was a key influence.
Where did you train?
Leighton Hospital. They had an innovative nursing programme where you did your SRN in just over two years and then your diploma. I also loved the uniform. White dress, white shoes and a red cloak.
What was your first job?
Leighton offered you a guaranteed year’s nursing after qualifying with two six-month placements, so I did six months in trauma and orthopaedics before starting in A&E, where I worked in several units for the next 12 years.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I am passionate about care, the NHS and my profession, and can be a bit feisty so I sometimes react to something when I should take a moment to structure my response.
Whom have you learnt most from in your nursing career?
I responded best in my early days from those traditional and fearsome ward sisters who were outstanding nurses. Latterly, I learnt a phenomenal amount about leadership, strategy and so much more from Dame Christine Beasley, who was my boss when she was CNO and I was leading the healthcare-associated infection programmes.
My proudest achievement is leading the national HCAI programme. This work saved lives and reduced suffering and harm
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Ignore the NHS hype and live by the values that brought you into the profession.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Being able to connect what I’m doing to the impact it can have on patient experience and care.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Leading the national HCAI programme that reduced MRSA by 80% and C difficile by 60%, when most people said it was impossible. I know this work saved lives, reduced suffering and harm, and has changed the culture of the NHS with regard to infection prevention.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I really don’t know. I do know that nursing has given me such different career opportunities.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I have achieved and done more than I ever imagined; it has been a privilege and a pleasure (most of the time). I hope I will be doing something I find interesting and rewarding but who knows what that might be.
What makes a good nurse?
A a good nurse is an amazing being. If you pushed me to offer some adjectives, I would include empathetic, intuitive, alert and observant. They need to be good communicators and have an urge to keep learning, adapting and improving, and have a great sense of humour.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I would simplify, streamline and improve nursing documentation.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
My husband Tony, my family, nice food, a glass or two of fizz and sunshine.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
The Queen. I think she is an amazing person.