We talk to Cathy Hughes, consultant nurse in gynaecology/oncology at Imperial College Healthcare Trust, who has been a nurse for 33 years.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
My mother and aunt were both nurses. I was interested in health and disease as well as the complexity of the biological basis of heath and the experience of it. Initially I would like to have been a speech therapist but nursing gave me a broader experience before focusing. I also wanted to work in the US or a developing country and with nursing offered the potential to work, or do charitable work, abroad.
Where did you train?
Wrexham, North Wales.
What was your first job in nursing?
Once qualified, I worked in an acute medical unit for a few months before travelling and then working in surgery and gynaecology.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I don’t think very quickly on my feet and am not often able to give a good response on the spur of the moment. This means I often don’t feel as though I got the best message across - certainly not the best answer I could have given.
From whom have you learnt the most in your career?
Peter Mason, the gynaecologist who set up the cancer service at Samaritan Hospital for Women (now Imperial Healthcare) and appointed me as one of the first gynaecological oncology nurse specialists in the UK in 1989. He taught me to listen to patients and also demonstrated how to get the best from others with the right balance of independence and support.
I wanted to work in the US or a developing country - with nursing came the potential to work, or do charitable work, abroad
What advice would you give someone starting out?
It is a great profession - take time to learn from those around you.
What keeps you awake at night?
That I may have forgotten to do or organise something. I keep meticulous lists of tasks.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Knowing I have made a difference to the experience of having cancer and cancer treatment.
What’s your proudest achievement?
My kids… but in nursing, obtaining my doctorate.
What is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
The continued development of independent diagnosis and treatment of disease, maintaining the more holistic impact of nursing.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
Probably speech therapy.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
Having just become a consultant nurse I hope to have consolidated this post and be developing a portfolio of strategic projects and interests.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
Caring about the impact of illness and disease.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I’d ensure providers have a minimal number of people who have no face-to-face contact with patients or relatives.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Long breakfast, gardening, a walk with the dog, ice cream, a BBQ with family and friends, and a good film.