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'As a nurse you are uniquely placed to make someone’s life better at any point in their journey'

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We talk to Katherine Fenton, chief nurse at University College London Hospital

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

It is easier to answer: “Why did I stay in a profession that has been described as hard work for little money?” I stayed because as a nurse, you are uniquely placed to make someone’s life better at any point in their journey. There is no other profession where you can make things better directly for an individual or on a wider scale.

Where did you train?

I undertook both my general and midwifery training at Airedale General Hospital. I did my neonatal training at St Mary’s in Manchester and my teacher training in Liverpool.

What was your first job?

I was a staff nurse on a gynaecology ward - with a fearsome sister who was brilliant. Her focus never wavered from her patients.

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

I am quite driven and tenacious. It has helped me but it means I am never satisfied with what I have achieved.

What advice would you give someone starting out?

Examine why you are in the profession and live up to those values every day. Make the most of opportunities - but don’t wait for them to drop into your lap.

What keeps you awake?

The trains that run past my London flat - all night.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

I love my job so to pick one thing from it is very hard. I guess helping others see how they can make a positive difference. An example would be when I led the High Impact Actions for Nursing and Midwifery and Energise for Excellence then chaired a conference to share best practice - I heard stories from nurses and midwives about how they had improved care and reduced costs with their innovations from the HIAs.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Qualifying as a nurse. I had done outstandingly well at school but my boyfriend was killed three weeks before my finals so it was a big push to get through. I think the next achievement would be the Safer Care Tool. This is a simple tool to help calculate nurse staffing based on the acuity and dependency of patients.

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

We still have not got pre-registration education right. It will have to be much more responsive to changing population demographics and we have to integrate services much better across acute and community care.

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

I would have loved to be a photographer.

If you could spend an hour in someone’s company, who would it be and why?

President Obama - hearing about his election campaign and how he engaged his country to unite around positive change on such a large scale.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I would argue that every member of the team is uniquely placed to make that impact, nurses can be great but it depends on a great deal of influencing and constraining factors.
    I would also argue that it is not how we are placed that matters but how we respond to people that has an unrecognised impact by nurses on our patients.

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