We talk to Ruth Northway who has been a nurse for 37 years and is currently professor of learning disability nursing at the University of South Wales.
Nt editorial ruth northway
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I wanted to work with people with learning disabilities and becoming a nurse was a good way to achieve this.
Where did you train?
I trained in Devon at what was then the Royal Western Counties School of Nursing.
What was your first job in nursing?
When I first qualified I worked as a staff nurse at Langdon Hospital in Dawlish supporting women with mild and moderate learning disabilities.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
Procrastination as it means that I often put myself under unnecessary pressure.
From whom have you learnt the most in your nursing career and why?
From the people with learning disabilities and their families that I have had the privilege of working with – if my work is focused on supporting them then I need to learn from them.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the profession?
Learning disability nursing is a diverse and exciting profession. Seek out and use all learning opportunities, don’t stop learning and go make a difference.
What keeps you awake at night?
Usually my thoughts and ideas – unfortunately my head hitting the pillow often seems to flick the ‘on switch’ in my brain!
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
It’s difficult to pin this down to one area as my work is very diverse. However, I think that it would be seeing others achieving their goals whether this is a student nurse graduating from their course, a colleague with learning disabilities presenting at a research conference or seeing an ex-student develop in their career.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Being appointed as Professor of Learning Disability Nursing.
What do you think is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
Many things are likely to exert an influence; changing patterns of health and disease, technology and inevitably funding. However, I hope that the major factor that will change nursing is the nursing profession itself through the development of practice, education and research.
Which job would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I would probably have worked with people with learning disabilities in another capacity such as social work or teaching.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
Depends on when I retire!
What do you think makes a good nurse?
A positive person centred value base, the appropriate knowledge and skills, the ability to work in partnership, an inquiring mind and a willingness to keep learning.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I would improve access to health care for people with learning disabilities and seek to reduce the health disparities they experience.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
A long walk with my dog, a good novel, and good food.
If you could spend an hour with a famous or notable person, who would it be and why?
Rosa Parks as I dislike injustice and admire her for challenging it through her actions.