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'When I was in school, nursing wasn’t ever discussed as an option'

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We talk to Brendan McCormack, head of the division of nursing at Queen Margaret University, who has been a nurse for 36 years

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

Nt editorial brendan mc cormack

Nursing was never my first choice of career. In many ways I am probably like most men of my vintage, in that when I was in school, nursing wasn’t ever discussed as an option. I had a scholarship to attend a Technical College to study plastics engineering, but (now very fortunately!) I failed my mechanical drawing exams and as a result lost my scholarship. I didn’t know what the future held and during the summer months the School of Nursing at the local psychiatric hospital advertised for student nurses. I applied and the rest is history!

Where did you train?

St Lomans Hospital, Mullingar, Ireland and then at The Royal Berkshire School of Nursing, Reading

What was your first job in nursing?

Staff nurse in what was then known as a ‘psychogeriatric ward’

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

Impatience – places pressure on myself and lothers

From whom have you learnt the most in your nursing career and why?

Too many to mention, but learned most from service-users and their families, from amazing leaders at all levels and from some great research mentors.

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

Work hard, play hard and never forget why we are here

What keeps you awake at night?

I survive on about four hours sleep most nights, so when I’m asleep… I’m asleep!

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

The variety in my role is amazing and whilst it is hard to juggle everything, I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, most satisfying continues to be feedback from whoever and wherever it comes

What’s your proudest achievement?

My work in person-centred nursing – it has influenced me and so many other people

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

Societal attitudes, knowledge, beliefs and demands

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


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


What do you think makes a good nurse?

Being always open to learn and develop

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

The fixation on quick-fixes as solutions for complex problems

What would your ideal weekend involve?

Gym, shopping and a long boozy lunch with my partner and friends on a Saturday. Followed on Sunday by a ‘long-lie’, the Coronation Street omnibus on TV and cooking.

If you could spend an hour with a famous or notable person, who would it be and why?

Oscar Wilde – he has been a lifelong hero of mine and I admire his irreverence, intolerance, impatience and disdain for hierarchy and authority

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