We talk to Nigel Dodds, advanced nurse practitioner at St Christopher’s Hospice, London, who has been a nurse for 25 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
I think I always wanted to be a nurse. My mother wanted to be a nurse but wasn’t able to be as she left school early. My sister is a nurse, so I guess I wanted to follow in her footsteps.
Where did you train?
Newcastle upon Tyne.
What was your first job?
Working on an infectious disease unit at Newcastle General Hospital.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
Speaking before thinking - it gets me into lots of trouble.
From whom have you learnt the most in your career?
Professor Dame Barbara Monroe, the chief executive at St Christopher’s Hospice, is pretty inspirational. She is always available to discuss professional issues despite her huge responsibilities. The ability to do strategic work as well as understand the minutiae of patient and staff problems is a real gift in a leader.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Work in palliative care. It’s a fulfilling field for a nurse. There are so many opportunities to learn and develop. You can make a tangible difference to the quality of life of patients and their carers, the sort of difference that will last for a long time - beyond the patient’s life.
What keeps you awake?
My pager, when I’m on call. When I’m not on call, it’s most likely to be worrying about my PhD assignment deadlines.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Being able to remain hands on while developing and leading services. St Christopher’s is a great place to work, with its history and standing nationally and internationally.
What is your proudest achievement?
There have been many. In the last year, I’m really pleased to have developed a new nurse-led model of care for the hospice’s community patients.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
Greater roles for nurses that will require us to be more and more flexible. In palliative care, we need to make sure services are accessible to all who need them. This means seeing people earlier on and those who historically may not have had access to palliative care, such as non-cancer patients, older people and those from hard-to-reach and minority groups.
Healthcare and research spending should be focused towards improving quality of life rather than increasing life expectancy
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
There was never a plan B. Thank god this worked out.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
No idea - hopefully I’ll still be working at St Christopher’s.
What makes a good nurse?
Compassion, empathy and being able to give people time.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
Focus healthcare and research spending towards improving quality of life rather than increasing life expectancy.
What’s your ideal weekend?
A long distance lake or lido swim. Time with my partner and friends involving: food, booze, cinema, theatre - but the swim has to come first.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Peter Tatchell, for his tenacity and dedication to gay, lesbian and transgender rights and human rights in general.