We talk to Susan Stewart,clinical nurse specialist in endocrinology and genetics, at Birmingham Women’s Hospital Foundation Trust and University Hospital Birmingham FT, who has been a nurse for 31 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
I really enjoyed doing a St John’s ambulance course in sixth form. I realised I would enjoy a practical career helping people, and nursing sprang to mind.
Where did you train?
Guy’s Hospital in London and at Newcastle-upon-Tyne School of Nursing.
What was your first job?
My first job in nursing was in a stroke rehabilitation hospital before my training. My first job after qualification was on an acute medical (72-hour stay) ward at Leeds General Infirmary.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I get easily distracted. When I have many things I want to do, I have to be strict with myself. Keeping “urgent” and “not so urgent” lists helps.
From whom have you learnt the most in your career?
Everyone we come into contact with in our professional life has something to offer, be it positive or negative, especially patients. The hard part is recognising it and learning from it.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Don’t go into nursing unless you like people and are prepared to give 110% when needed. There is not always a happy ending and it can be frustrating, but it is fantastically rewarding if you get it right.
What keeps you awake?
The financial demands on the NHS and the pressures this puts on delivering care.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Good communication. Being able to get over complex issues to patients and their families in a user-friendly way is a real skill.
What is your proudest achievement?
Personally, it’s co-producing my two children, and helping them evolve into competent, confident adults. Professionally, I am proud to be nurse and a midwife, and still to be enjoying every day that my job brings.
There is not always a happy ending in nursing and it can be frustrating, but it is fantastically rewarding if you get it right
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
An ageing population, obesity and alcohol abuse will put huge strains on acute and tertiary care. Primary care and community nursing will need to evolve hugely to ease pressures.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I’d have loved a career in music.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I love the challenge of rare disease patients. The conditions are rare but there are many of them. We are developing a coordinated service for patients in Birmingham and eventually nationally, to raise awareness, and I hope I will still be involved.
What makes a good nurse?
A good sense of humour, courage and being an excellent communicator. Always prepared to learn, change and develop best care accordingly.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
Nursing burnout and the impending skills crisis.
What is your ideal weekend?
Rest and relaxation with friends and family.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
My mum, before she developed advanced Alzheimer’s. She was so full of life and we used to chat for hours about everything. Now she can hardly speak or understand. It is such a cruel disease.