We talk to Sue Smith, executive chief nurse at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust who started as a healthcare support worker in 1987.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
It is one profession where I can make a difference every day.
Where did you train?
Lancaster District School of Nursing.
What was your first job in nursing?
Staff nurse on an acute medical assessment ward; I loved the variety of patients we treated.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I am passionate and this usually helps me but there are times when it gets in the way. I am emotive and feel responsible when things go wrong.
From whom have you learnt the most in your career?
If I had to pick one person, it would be Dr Hilary Chapman. She appointed me to my first deputy post and has supported me throughout my career ever since. She has been a major influence and continues to encourage me today.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Don’t listen to people telling you what you can’t do; keep pursuing improvement for patients and staff - the rest will follow. Believe in yourself and don’t compromise your values.
I can’t comprehend how major change can happen so often with no real chance of embedding or sustainability
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing; I deal with concerns as they arise so I don’t tend to take them to bed with me. I do get frustrated with the impact of politics on the NHS but I sleep well, knowing I am doing the best I can.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Influencing improvements for patients and staff; seeing frontline staff empowered to improve patient care and experience. I have reached a point where the staff lead the changes; my job is to help them remove an occasional barrier.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Improving nursing and midwifery staffing and skill mix at UHMBT over two years. Give staff the resources they need, space to lead and they will soar.
What is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
The lines between hospital and community will change imminently and we need to be ready for this by reflecting learning needs in training programmes.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
Author (if being a pop star didn’t work out!).
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
If not still a nurse leader in the NHS, I’ll work with my charity, Transform Healthcare Cambodia, helping more British healthcare teams to develop healthcare in Cambodia.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
The constant change depending on the political party in power; I can’t comprehend how major change can happen so often with no chance of embedding or sustainability. We have lost so many experienced, inspirational leaders in recent years and I am concerned that more will leave due to the constant regulatory pressures on NHS organisations.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Angelina Jolie. She’s an inspirational humanitarian leader and a strong role model for women willing to use their position and influence to make a difference on a global level.