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Former deputy CNO receives OBE for services to nursing

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A distinguished nurse whose long career has taken him from ward to Westminster has spoken of his pride at being awarded an OBE for services to the profession.

Dr David Foster travelled to Buckingham Palace this week to receive the honour from the Queen herself.

“It was just a fabulous day when it comes to having your family with you and the sun was shining it was really quite special,” he told Nursing Times.

Qualifying as a nurse and then a midwife in the early 1980s, Dr Foster’s most recent job was as a civil servant at the Department of Health where he worked in nursing policy before retiring in 2016.

He said the Queen had commented on how it must have been “slightly unusual” for Dr Foster to have worked as a male midwife in the earlier days when it was even less common than now.

Following his clinical career, Dr Foster went into management and leadership, including as a director of nursing.

He served as England’s deputy chief nursing officer and also achieved a PhD for research into developing nurses as managers.

Despite retiring, Dr Foster has stayed at the forefront of nursing and is currently chair of charities the Foundation of Nursing Studies and a trustee of the Queen’s Nursing Institute.

Dr Foster said nursing had given him a “huge breadth” of experiences over almost four decades. 

“It’s been a very varied career and it’s a great profession to have entered because it’s given me so much opportunity and diversity,” Dr Foster told Nursing Times.

“Even to keep going in retirement - I do as much as a I want but I can still trade on my nursing credentials doing the charity work,” he added.

Asked on his views on the current challenges in nursing, Dr Foster said “partly the pace of change, partly the pressure of work”.

“I don’t mean that necessarily just because of the staffing crisis, which there is clearly a shortage of nurses, but actually the daily personal pressure and stress that you are exposed to, because you so often only have one chance to get everything right,” he said. 

“Even in someone’s home, even in a nursing home, hospital, a GP surgery, even if you are an academic and educating, you can say one thing wrong and that spoils an experience for someone and you only have one chance to get things right, which is really stressful,” he noted.

However, Dr Foster said when things went right it was “so rewarding”. 

Along with receiving the OBE, Dr Foster said getting a PhD was one of the proudest moments of his career, made even sweeter because he was able to do it as a nurse.

“That was a real personal achievement,” he said. “There’s a degree of sacrifice, it is a real tangible contribution to knowledge, that’s the point of doctoral research.

“And to do it as a nurse and midwife, to even have that opportunity, was quite something because it was unusual when I did it,” he added.

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