We talk to Jo Collins, matron/senior nurse at East and North Hertfordshire Trust, who has been a nurse for 30 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
I honestly believe my decision to be a nurse was innate. From a very early age, pre-school, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
Where did you train?
I did an integrated RSCN/RGN course. My sick children’s nursing was at Great Ormond Street Hospital; my general nursing at Watford General Hospital.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a staff nurse on a general paediatric ward at The Lister Hospital.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I have difficulty masking my feelings. I’ve been told never to play poker. It’s an ongoing joke at Christmas that my face tells everyone exactly what I think of an unwanted present.
Whom have you learnt most from in your nursing career?
The patients and families that I have cared for over the years - the insights I have gained into their lives, their struggles, their journeys, their achievements. And understanding the impact that disability and ill health has on families. It’s very humbling.
I have difficulty masking my feelings. It’s an ongoing joke at Christmas that my face tells exactly what I think of a present
What advice would you give someone starting out?
You need to be dedicated. Nursing is not just a job, it is a vocation, and on occasion you may need to bite your tongue.
What keeps you awake?
I could sleep on a washing line! But if woken, it’s almost always work related and generally centred around the off duty.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Knowing that I am making a difference, enabling children with complex health needs to be looked after at home with their families supported by a team of dedicated, highly skilled workers.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Winning the WellChild Nurse Award 2014 and meeting Prince Harry.
What is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
Probably nothing. Nursing is nursing, shaped by the individual.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I was always going to be a nurse; it was never an option.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I would like to think that I will be a grandmother, and could take early retirement and be active with my grandchildren. Nursing exposes you to the heartache of others and you realise that life really is for living.
What makes a good nurse?
Compassion. Being able to see the world through the patient’s eyes. Someone who listens, not just hears.
What one thing would you change in healthcare?
Staffing levels. It breaks my heart when I’ve visited general adult wards to see the lack of staff available - older patients calling out for assistance, lying in bed, confused, with no one to talk to. And in paediatric wards, where the expectation is often that the parents of disabled children will continue to care for their child, to the extent that sometimes parents are reluctant to go home.
What is your ideal weekend?
Breakfast in bed and no household chores. A dog walk amidst beautiful landscapes to a country pub. Baking and having all of the family at home together for dinner.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
The Dalai Lama, to listen to his wisdom and gain an insight into the art of happiness.