We talk to June Girvin, pro vice-chancellor and dean of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Oxford Brookes University, who qualified as a nurse 37 years ago.
Why did you become a nurse?
After school, the options
were teaching or nursing. I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher. A friend was going to train as a nurse and she encouraged me.
Where did you train?
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.
What was your first job?
I worked on a male orthopaedic and trauma ward at Birmingham General. It was huge fun, with a magnificent ward sister.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I’m pretty comfortable in my skin these days. I do have a sugar habit I wish I could break.
From whom have you learnt most from in your career?
Many people. That first ward sister - organised, expert, straightforward, credibility in spades - a “watch and learn” experience. I’ve learnt a lot from watching people do things not well then playing through how I might have done things.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Spend a couple of years exploring different areas before you specialise. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but take your work very seriously. You don’t stop learning when you qualify. Take every opportunity for more education.
What keeps you awake?
Fatty food - killing indigestion. Otherwise I sleep very well. My husband was very ill earlier this year - quad bypass then total nephrectomy. Now he’s recovering, nothing comes close to worrying me now.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Seeing people I’ve appointed do well, and graduation ceremonies, of course.
What is your proudest achievement?
Having two fantastic careers - as a nurse right up to director of nursing, and now in higher education. I was pretty chuffed when my book Leadership and Nursing was published.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
Radically changed services, although it’s often done in a responsive way. I long for clear and visionary leadership for nursing. Education can change nursing - it can change so much. I see thoughtful, motivated people at Brookes every day.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
No idea. I don’t re-imagine the past and I have no regrets.
What makes a good nurse?
In no set order - education, self-awareness, conscience.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
That we could think about alternative systems without feeling we’re betraying the NHS - more sophisticated than left of centre good, right of centre bad. I hate what party politics does to services and systems. There’s no objectivity, no rationality.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
A little light clothes shopping, followed by sitting in the garden, with food and drink at hand.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
It’s tempting to say David Beckham or Idris Elba, just so I could gaze. I’d want to talk to Florence Nightingale about her influencing tactics, what drove her, how she dealt with unbelievable frustrations. Or the Queen - imagine if she agreed to be totally indiscreet.