We talk to Sue Hartley, director of nursing at Walsall Healthcare Trust, who has been a nurse for more than 30 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
During my first placement with older patients during a one-year course, I realised I really wanted to be a nurse.
Where did you train?
At the Queen Elizabeth School of Nursing in Birmingham.
What was your first job?
Before I registered, at Stratford-upon-Avon Community Hospital. After registration, I worked in cardiology at the Queen Elizabeth in Birmingham.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I find saying no difficult. Also, I am always available so I take on too much.
From whom have you learnt the most in your career?
As a group, patients have taught me about care and compassion. Individually, Sister Emms at Warwick Hospital, who was relentless in pursuing high standards, was professional and supported staff; every shift was about striving for the best for patients. She taught me to speak up for patients and not be afraid of doing what is right.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Always ensure you communicate well with patients and their relatives or carers, and check that they understand.
What keeps you awake?
Ensuring we are working in a way that creates openness, where patients and staff feel supported in telling us when things aren’t quite right.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Working with great nurses who live the 6Cs through our promises that patients are welcomed, cared for and in safe hands, and that staff feel appreciated, supported to meet high standards and feel part of one team.
What is your proudest achievement?
I was working as a night sister on an oncology ward. It was 10pm and a young lady who wanted to be married was dying. By 2am, I had got a registrar, a chaplain, some hymn books from the chaplaincy, made a bouquet from visitors’ flowers and found a bottle of wine in a consultant’s office. She was married with her family beside her and died before the end of the shift.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
The profession’s voice will grow stronger and we will see a continued focus on standards and staffing.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
Worked in prison reform.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
In April, I move to Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust as director of nursing. I hope I will still be there.
What makes a good nurse?
Putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes, treating others as your would wish to be treated and using your voice.
What is your ideal weekend?
Watching international rugby with all my family followed by the theatre, then a long dinner and a bottle of white wine.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
It would be two people. The first would be my grandmother. I would ask about her views of society and the healthcare system today. Second, Stephen Fry. He is challenging stigma through his story, plus he is incredibly funny and intelligent.