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'My staff are my biggest critics and my biggest allies'

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We talk to the chief nurse and chief operating officer at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, Eileen Sills, who qualified as a nurse in 1980

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

Both my parents worked in healthcare and I didn’t ever consider doing anything else.

Where did you train?

Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.

What was your first job in nursing?

I was a staff nurse on an orthopaedic ward.

What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?

My family would say I am too loud; my staff would say I am hard to please.

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

My staff - they are your biggest critics and your biggest allies. If you get it right, you can succeed and have fun along the way.

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

Believe in yourself, strive to do your best all of the time, always remember the most important person is your patient, always think about the small things and always go the extra mile.

What keeps you awake at night?

Have I done enough to keep our patients and staff safe?

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

On a Friday, in uniform, meeting staff and patients. It keeps my feet firmly on the ground and I remember why I came into the profession.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Being awarded a CBE in 2003’s New Years Honours list.

What do you think is likely to change nursing in the next decade?

Delivering the NHS changes will affect the way nursing develops, but also the expectation of our patients and the public as a whole.

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

I have absolutely no idea. I had aspired to play a musical instrument professionally but after three years of the clarinet and not progressing past the first A Tune A Day book, this was never going to happen.

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

The NHS will look different. I hope I can be in a job where I can still make a difference and still enjoy going to work.

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

Reducing the variability in the standard of care.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

My husband and two children, the blackberry turned off and no papers to read.

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

I recently met a retired nurse who is 100 years old. She is still working in a voluntary capacity and is one of the most inspirational women I have met. I’d like the opportunity to learn more about her and understand what has enabled her to stay so motivated.

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