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Achievements of a lifetime

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Liz Redfern is an inspiration to nurses, promoting what the profession can achieve

“Understated, shunning the spotlight and just gets on with things,” was how this year’s Chief Nursing Officers’ Lifetime Achievement Award winner was described by her peers and the judges.

Deputy chief nursing officer for England Liz Redfern started her nursing career in 1969 and laughs about her earlier achievements. “When I was a student nurse in Manchester, I was a table tennis champion,” she recalls.

She soon put her dedication and skills to more clinical use at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. “I, along with my colleagues, won a Guinness Book of Records entry for being the fastest bed makers - and we made them with real hospital corners.”

She may laugh about these accomplishments now, but she says that nursing is a profession of which she is proud because it can do much when it is in the right mindset. “We have shown what we can do when we put our minds to it,” she says.

Ms Redfern is a good role model for that philosophy.

Since registering as a general and children’s nurse in 1974, she has remained a tireless advocate for patients and their families. Her outstanding contribution to nursing was recognised in 2009 when she was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to healthcare and nursing, and in 2011 with an honorary doctorate from the University of West England for her contribution to the development of nursing education and for personal leadership.

In her current role, she is part of the chief nursing officer for England’s senior team of four regional chief nurses. She provides professional leadership for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals as chief nurse, south. She is the deputy chief nursing officer for NHS England, providing senior nursing advice to the NHS England board and to national team members.

She also provides strategic leadership to Compassion in Practice, particularly in the areas of patient experience and quality.

Ms Redfern has been instrumental this year in working across the country, chairing a number of the reviews of the quality of care and treatment in organisations that are persistent outliers on mortality indicators, such as those in the Keogh review.

She is lauded for her ability to cut through complexity to inspire others.

Addressing the Nursing Times Awards audience, she said: “We are a constant force for good. A great force for good in the way we lead others and deliver care.

“We constantly underestimate what we can achieve as individuals and as a profession. If you haven’t got confidence in yourself, we can’t expect other people to have confidence in us. Never underestimate what you can do as an individual and the impact you can have on others. If we think small as a profession, that does us down.”

She has achieved much success herself. In her former role as director of patient care and nursing in the South West Strategic Health Authority, she managed the phenomenal achievement of reducing MRSA cases by 83% (higher than the national reduction levels) and was instrumental in leading the methodology for deep-dive reviews for people in hospital with a learning disability.

Her starting point is always trying to understand what patients would want, how they might be feeling and what they would be experiencing. She inspires others with the easy juxtaposition of acute business and analytical skills alongside what drives her: that nursing is about caring for people in a compassionate and intelligent way.

Most recently, she has been talking to caremakers. “I told them that I had been nursing for over 40 years and they looked at me like they couldn’t believe that someone had been in nursing that long,” she says.

“But I love doing that and speaking to new nurses, it’s one of the best things about my job.”

Jenni Middleton

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