We talk to Professor Candy McCabe, Florence Nightingale Foundation chair in clinical nursing practice research, who qualified over 30 years ago.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I loved being around people and making life better for them. Nursing seemed to offer independent responsibility and the support of a team while working to benefit others.
Where did you train?
The Nightingale School at St Thomas’ Hospital, London.
What was your first job in nursing?
Staff nurse in gynaecology at Bristol General Hospital.
From whom have you learnt the most in your career?
As a student I worked on a ward run by a sister who terrified us students. She rebuked us even if, for example, we hadn’t put a bed table close to our patient. From her I learnt how important it is to give your best, even if tired and rushed, and to be compassionate and thoughtful when things get tough.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Enjoy every minute, and be open to new knowledge and opportunities from any direction. A nursing qualification can give you a wonderfully varied career and help you find all kinds of strengths and skills you never knew you had.
What keeps you awake at night?
Not much. I have learnt the resilience needed for a busy job requires good sleep, food, exercise and company.
“Nurses need empathy and the confidence to advocate for their patient. They have to be team players but prepared to be leaders”
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
My weekly clinic and ward round. I lead two national services focused on the care of those with chronic pain related to complex regional pain syndrome or radiation damage after treatment for breast cancer.
These are quite rare so patients often have very little information on their condition or appropriate care. It is a joy to spend time with them and see them leave with a much greater understanding of their condition and hope for the future.
What is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
Technology. The advances in monitoring people from afar, in their homes or nearby clinics will mean nurses must become more tech savvy to be able to interpret data and contribute to the design and development of new devices so patient care is enhanced, not depersonalised.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
Nurses need a wealth of skills and knowledge to deliver excellent care but must also be critical thinkers to apply those appropriately. But above all they need empathy and the confidence to advocate for their patient. Nurses have to be team players while being prepared to act as leaders.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
Quality care is more important than speedy care. Targets are increasingly focused on minimising time patients spend with health professionals so consultations focus on their top priority and can’t take a more effective holistic, approach.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
No emails, grant deadlines or papers to write!
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
The next health secretary to explain the frontline experience of caring for those with long-term conditions and discuss how we can give them high-quality, timely, lifelong care.