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'ICU can be a great choice for new graduates'

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We talk to Professor Paul Fish, director of nursing at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and visiting professor of nursing leadership at London South Bank University, who qualified as a nurse 15 years ago.

Paul Fish

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

My aunt is a nurse and, from a young age, I can remember her telling me about her role. She was always very encouraging about me joining the profession and was a great inspiration. We still have regular debates about nursing issues.

Where did you train?

Hull University and Hull Royal Infirmary. It was a great three years and I felt thoroughly ready to nurse when I qualified. There is a lot of talk in the profession about the academic preparation of nurses but it is as much about the practice environment that trusts provide for students as the academic component.

What was your first job in nursing?

I moved straight into intensive care when I qualified. I found providing technically challenging care alongside lots of fundamental nursing and close support of relatives really stimulating. As long as you get lots of support and a good preceptorship programme, ICU can be a great choice for new graduates.

From whom have you learnt the most in your career?

I’ve worked alongside some amazing practitioners, teachers and leaders, too many to mention. One who made a significant impact on me was former associate director of nursing Glennis Curry, who is now retired. I learnt so much from her about myself, leadership and developing others.

“I found providing technically challenging care alongside lots of fundamental nursing and close support of relatives really stimulating”

What advice would you give someone starting out in the profession?

Take charge of your professional development, use evidence to guide your practice and enjoy yourself.

What keeps you awake at night?

Recruiting, developing and retaining nurses. I’m sure it keeps most directors of nursing awake.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Unblocking barriers for frontline teams, developing people and practice and seeing standards improve for patients.

What’s your proudest achievement?

“I’ve worked alongside some amazing practitioners, teachers and leaders”

Qualifying as a nurse - lots of other achievements happened as a result of that.

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

Evidence-based practice. If it doesn’t change us, then that’s not good for patients.

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

I’m a frustrated pilot, but I’ll settle with passing my private pilot’s licence.

“I’d like to continue leading nursing, research and education in practice. I couldn’t think of a better role”

What would you like to be doing in five years?

I’d like to continue leading nursing, research and education in practice. I couldn’t think of a better role.

What makes a good nurse?

Care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment.

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

Significant development of nursing research. Without it, so many key questions about practice will go unanswered.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

Exploring London - it’s still all relatively new.

If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?

Stephen Fry. He’s a national treasure.

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