We talk to Tony Clapham, staff nurse, learning disabilities, at Mayfield Assessment and Treatment Unit, Lynebank Hospital, Dunfermline, who has been qualified for 4.5 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
I had spent too long away at sea (I was in the Merchant Navy for 10 years). I had accrued seven years as a carer working with people with learning disabilities, and opted to consolidate that experience.
Where did you train?
Edinburgh Napier University.
What was your first job in nursing?
Staff nurse on a forensic ward.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I’m a complete finisher, which is important when providing care. However, wards - being the dynamic environments that they are - are suited to those who are good at multi-tasking, and I wish I was better at that than I am.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Keep on asking questions.
What keeps you awake at night?
Going from a back shift straight onto a day shift. It takes a while for my mind to stop processing the events of a busy shift.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Working with the care team to help my patients find solutions to their care needs, and seeing those needs getting met through effective care planning. Basically, helping my patients regain and retain the best quality of life that they can.
What’s your proudest achievement?
As a nurse - see above. Outside of nursing, chairing a community council in Scotland’s fourth poorest community through a difficult time of change, and helping to improve the quality of life for folk living there.
Staff and patients are at risk when wards are insufficiently staffed, but quality of care must be our top priority as nurses
What is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
The biggest shift for nursing will arise as the NHS changes its focus and scope. As a learning disability nurse, I am aware my patients have different care needs to those of the majority of the population, and providing effective care in the community is proving increasingly expensive. I think we will see changes in how that care is structured and how nurses will be allocated to meeting those care needs.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
Focusing on a specialist area of care for people with learning disabilities. I’m doing a master’s in health and wellbeing, which looks at healthcare challenges in remote communities, and look forward to seeing what opportunities will open up.
What makes a good nurse?
Being able to empathise with the patient and their felt needs, and finding ways to then address those needs effectively.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
Staffing levels, and the restrictions and consequent frustrations we must deal with from patients as a result of low staff numbers. Staff and patient safety is at risk when wards are insufficiently staffed, and quality of care for patients must always be our top priority as nurses.
What’s your ideal weekend?
Getting out into some of the amazing hills and countryside in the UK with some friends.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Gene Kranz (Apollo 13 Flight Director). His lead during the crisis, and his famous statement, “Failure is not an option”, is inspirational. NASA’s culture is team oriented, and we can learn lessons on effective teamworking.