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'We never were nor should be doctors’ handmaidens'


We talk to Debbie Hicks, nurse consultant in diabetes at NHS Enfield Community Services, who qualified in 1981, and has worked in diabetes care since 1990

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

I spent two weeks in hospital when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and decided then that I wanted to become a nurse.

Where did you train?

At Hull School of Nursing.

What was your first job?

I was a staff nurse on a neurosurgical ward.

Whom have you learnt most from in your career and why?

Pat Clarke, Sue Cradock and Mary MacKinnon have inspired me - all outstanding nurses who work in diabetes care.

What advice would you give someone starting out?

Enjoy what you do. Otherwise, find a different career.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Making a difference for people with diabetes by support through their diabetes journey.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Redesigning diabetes care delivery in Enfield and realising that, over the past six years, the service has improved long-term outcomes for many people.

What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?

Nurses will always be the linchpin of the NHS. Nurses need a stronger voice - we never were nor should be doctors’ handmaidens. We have our own distinct skills that contribute to multidisciplinary teamworking in the NHS.

What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?

I love the genre of books by James Patterson or Patricia Cornwell so I’d quite fancy myself as a forensic pathologist or detective.

What job would you like to be doing in five years?

It depends how healthcare is delivered, and all the politics around it - if I don’t like the way the NHS evolves I will look for something else to channel my energy into but I’m sure it will involve diabetes care.

What makes a good nurse?

A nurse needs to be multi-skilled, including being a detective to find out the problems, a counsellor to help people cope, empathetic to see the problem from the patients’ perspective, hardworking without taking too much notice of the time, oh, and a sense of humour always helps.

If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?

That funding wasn’t such a problem and we didn’t have to choose between treatment for cancer or another condition, and a cure for type 1 diabetes.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

I would be somewhere sunny with family and a few friends, with constant access to good food, good music and alcohol. We would make our own entertainment probably with a karaoke machine.

If you could spend an hour in someone’s company, who would it be and why?

It would probably be Madonna as I love her music and she has an excellent business mind. I would try and pick up some tips in case I want to leave the NHS.


Readers' comments (6)

  • Janet Patterson

    Well said.

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  • 'we never were nor should be doctors’ handmaidens'
    however we still seem to have a lot of doctors and politicians to persuade differently of that little gem!!
    A stronger voice of footfall and megaphones methinks.

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  • does a doctor not deserve to be respected by a nurse? They put the years and money into being in the position they are in. Medical students on the other hand....

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  • Anonymous | 26-Jul-2011 11:26 pm

    Does a Nurse not deserve to be respected by a Doctor? Or everyone for that matter? We put the time, sacrifice and ultimately money in too, without many of the financial or status rewards our medical colleagues get!

    I respect my medical counterparts as colleagues, but that does not mean I will not fight for and promote my own profession.

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  • By all means promote your profession, but in no way is a nurse more important than a doctor, they are there to make sure your patients are getting the best treatment, you are there to make sure your patients are cared for appropriately!!

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  • has anybody said that nurses are more important than doctors? I have never heard anybody say that.

    they are of equal importance not more important. they are two entirely different professions which happen to work side by side but play totally different roles in the treatment and care of patients.

    it is not constructive to judge who is the most important!

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