We talk to Sara Nelson, associate director at South London Cardiovascular and Stroke Network, and nurse board member at Bromley Clinical Commissioning Group, who qualified 30 years ago.
Why did you become a nurse?
Time spent as a child in Great Ormond Street, and a great aunt who trained at St Bartholomew’s who was captured by the Japanese and survived after being interned in Changi were probably unconscious influences.
Where did you train?
Westminster Hospital for my RGN, Royal Brompton for my cardiothoracic ENB 249, BSc at Greenwich University and MSc at Kingston University.
What was your first job?
I worked on a mixed medical/cardiology ward that also housed the adult bone marrow transplant unit. This inspired me into all things cardiothoracic.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
Ageing and impatience. I have a lot to do before I leave this soil and there is never enough time.
From whom have you learnt most in your career and why?
Two stand out: Irene Muirhead, matron at the Royal Brompton, who encouraged me to go for my first ward sister post - she always knew what was going on, walked the corridors, knew her nurses and was a true lady; and Jan Proctor King, CHD nurse, formerly of the government vascular programme, who has a inspirational way of teaching.
The hospital matron always knew what was going on, walked the corridors, knew her nurses and was a true lady
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Treat others as you would wish to be treated. Communicate, listen, act holistically and think about the effect of your actions. Be resilient and resourceful.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Seeing people get better, which is why I loved surgery. I am passionate about prevention, and innovation and improvement that will make a difference to patients and staff.
What’s your proudest achievement?
After my children, completing my BSc while writing a book chapter and undergoing major neurosurgery, a humbling experience that taught me a lot.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
Can’t think of a better job but I enjoyed my A level student days in the hotel industry; I suppose it has similarities to nursing.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I shall soon be taking up a role as a quality improvement lead in the London Clinical Senate/Strategic Clinical Networks. I hope in five years I will still be making a difference and that people will still value my work or opinions/ideas and, if they don’t, are brave enough to say, so I can retire gracefully.
What makes a good nurse?
Caring, compassion and respect for patients and colleagues, self-awareness a desire for lifelong learning, an understanding of health policies and a sense of humour.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
More emphasis on prevention and less focus on costs and targets. Better communication and less fragmentation through technology that is joined up.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Relaxing with family and friends, which should involve good food and wine (red of course) and, as a treat, a weekend away in a spa.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
My grandmother. She was a wise lady and I miss her a lot.