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60 SECONDS WITH …

'A degree in itself doesn’t make a person more caring'

  • 11 Comments

We quiz Ruth Harris, professor of nursing practice and innovation at the Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, run by Kingston University and St George’s, University of London.

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

I wanted a varied job, and to work with people. Two aunts were nurses and it seemed the obvious choice. I wanted to work in a caring profession and have never regretted the decision - you make choices and grow into them.

Where did you train?

Chelsea College (now King’s College) and St George’s Hospital. I never expected to be back at St George’s.

What was your first job?

I was a staff nurse on a female general medical ward at St James Hospital in Balham (linked to St George’s).

What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?

It will change hugely through technology. Much more care and treatment will be given in the community and nurses will lead services far more.

What makes a good nurse?

Good knowledge, skills, compassion and emotional intelligence. The desire to care.

What do you enjoy most about being in the health profession?

Working in a team is really important to me. Making a positive difference to people’s lives, often during periods of anxiety and stress.

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

It would be good to reduce paperwork to what is required.

How can you see nursing developing?

There are going to be a lot more opportunities for nurses to develop ways of organising and delivering care in both acute and community services.

What do you think about nursing becoming a degree-only profession?

A degree gives you additional skills and grounding in research. It gave me confidence, technical knowledge, skills and ability. A degree in itself doesn’t make a person more caring. A caring person with a degree will make a very strong team member.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

It is important to understand a patient’s perspective, their condition and how much you can influence their experience of healthcare. Learn as much as you can from people you work with who you see as experts.

Who have you learnt most from in your career and why?

I have learnt a lot from so many people. Jenifer Wilson-Barnett, my PhD and MSc supervisor, was so encouraging. Lynn Batehup and Amanda Evans on the Byron Ward nursing development unit supported me to think critically about my practice. Patients have had a big influence, as have clinical and research colleagues.

How is the National Institute for Health Research study on interprofessional teamworking in stroke care progressing?

We are in the final stages. The final report will be submitted towards the end of the year. The next priority will be to generate good links and research with local healthcare providers.

Sarah Bryant

  • 11 Comments

Readers' comments (11)

  • Well of of course it doesn't! DOH!

    The wording of the headline appears to contradict what Prof Harris later says, when asked "What makes a good nurse", she states "good knowledge..." before "compassion and emotional intelligence.."

    But thank you for an interesting article.

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  • rovergirl6@hotmail.com

    Nursing is instinctual ,I beleive that not all people can be good nurses. but if a person has the gifts to nurse a good level of knowledge will only assist them to provide top quality care.

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  • How is the National Institute for Health Research study on interprofessional teamworking in stroke care progressing?

    This outcome I am looking forward to..

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  • 'A degree in itself doesn’t make a person more caring'

    No, but neither doesn NOT having one.

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  • Having a Post Grad. degree has given me the ability to critically analyse clinical rationale (my own and that of others). Like hundreds of other nurses all over the country - I continually point out the blatently obvious to those in power who have greatest control over patient care - but I do it from a research based fountain of knowledge and with the confidence borne out of years of academic study and applied in practice.

    For some reason, and even if the patient is less than impressed, medical and managerial colleagues find this ability impressive and possibly a bit intimidating, but if this helps my patient to get the care they need - I am more than just 'nice' , I am actually useful!

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  • Anonymous | 23-Jul-2011 10:55 am

    As someone with a post grad degree, I totally agree with the above comment. Especially when I compare my thinking, understanding, practice, interpersonal relations (and even dealing with some of the more difficult managers!) pre and post reading for the degree.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 23-Jul-2011 10:55 am

    'For some reason, and even if the patient is less than impressed, medical and managerial colleagues find this ability impressive and possibly a bit intimidating'

    Yes, this is a bit off topic - but some people who think they are experts in something (such as your colleagues) do react remarkably badly, when you point out they are wrong about something !

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  • from Anonymous | 23-Jul-2011 11:36 am

    comment above!

    Unless somebody is doing something which is directly detrimental to patient care, it is not about point scoring, feeling smug, belittling others and trying to show academic superiority by pointing out to others that they are wrong. this only serves to demonstrate that you are the idiot. it is about teaching, guiding and leading that there are alternative safer or better ways of doing things which are more rational or logic or based on evidence which you are able to support. Just because you have an academic background this does not entitle you to be a bully as well even though you might feel that others are. it also requires a degree of emotional intelligence otherwise higher education is worthless and especially in a caring profession such as nursing!

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  • I can honestly say I have never been accused of bullying = quite the reverse actually since I have often taken on 'bullying' cases on behalf of my union members.

    But I appreciate that some staff members with low self esteem could perceive a better educated member of staff as a threat. Many Trusts now run assertiveness training and provide occupational health 1 2 1 counselling and as a qualified counsellor myself = i think Anon above might benefit from this sort of help.

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  • On what grounds would you suggest I need counselling? You know absolutely nothing about me and it is not up to counsellors to go around advertising their wares - that is enough to give the profession a bad reputation. Read comments properly before you make such offensive statements!

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