We talk to Natalie Forrest, director of nursing at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, who has worked in the profession since 1987.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I was good at the sciences at school and I loved human biology. Coupled with the fact that I am very practical and enjoyed looking after people, it seemed a natural choice.
Where did you train?
I trained at Sheffield Hallam University.
What was your first job in nursing?
Staff nurse in intensive care at Harefield Hospital.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I can be very unforgiving if things are not done in the way that I expect. I think it comes from looking after some of the sickest people in the country when everything being done precisely and timely is critical to their recovery. I must say I think I have mellowed over the years though.
From whom have you learnt most in your nursing career and why?
I have learnt lots of things from lots of people but, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I genuinely think I have learnt most from the patients I have looked after and their loved ones. They have taught me what a difference it makes if you give them your time and listen.
What keeps you awake at night?
There are so many things you might expect me to say but the truth is, if I have a plan in place to improve something or a team I trust, I am normally so tired at night that I sleep. Hatching the plan keeps me awake!
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Being thanked by patients or their families for excellent care and being able to pass that on to individual staff members to make their day.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I genuinely think I have learnt most from the patients I have looked after and their loved ones
What’s your proudest achievement?
Becoming a ward sister, becoming a director of nursing and, as I am currently the interim chief executive here at WHHT, I would have to say that too.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
You have to be organised, hardworking and have a great memory. You also need to love life, people, biology and have a big smile!
What do you think is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
The need to deliver high-quality care for people over 75 is going to have a big impact on nursing. I also think we will continue to see an increase in very senior nursing roles to replace junior doctors. There just aren’t enough of them.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
In the NHS, it would be to standardise lots of the things we all use but of which we have our own versions, for example uniforms, posters and documentation.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Lying on a beach in the sunshine with a good book.
If you could spend an hour in someone’s company, who would it be and why?
It would have to be David Cameron. I would like to explain to him exactly what needs to be done to make sure the NHS can continue to be one of England’s biggest treasures. I also think he’s quite good looking!