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.