Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


'Be proud of your profession and enjoy your working life'

  • Comment

We talk to Alison While, professor of community nursing at King’s College London who registered as a nurse in 1975, before becoming a health visitor.

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

I always wanted to be a nurse throughout my childhood and it never really occurred to me to pursue other career options.

Where did you train?

I trained at St Thomas’ Hospital, London and had the most inspirational nurse tutors. Sadly one of my nurse tutors died two winters ago. I’m still in correspondence with my other nurse tutor.

What was your first job in nursing?

I worked as a health visitor in north Kensington, London. My geographical patch comprised a housing clearance/improvement area and some streets with mansions.

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

A constant desire to aspire to the highest standards in everything; it is exhausting.

From whom have you learnt most in your nursing career and why?

At different times I have been lucky to learn from lots of different people. My nurse tutors taught me the importance of personal and professional integrity, which I have carried with me over the years. But they were also tremendous fun. I was fortunate to work alongside Jenifer Wilson-Barnett for many years; she was committed to high quality nursing and believed you should never settle for second best when it came to patient care.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the profession?

My advice would be to be proud of your profession and enjoy your working life.

What keeps you awake at night?

I am lucky because I sleep well and, on the rare occasions I am kept awake, it is usually to do with a fast-approaching deadline.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

There are three satisfying aspects to my job: working with students; working with university and healthcare colleagues; and generating research.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Becoming a fellow of the Queen’s Nursing Institute.

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

An integration of care across the primary-secondary interface.

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

A lawyer specialising in family law.

What job would you like to be doing in five years?

Not sure.

What do you think makes a good nurse?

A person who is kind, compassionate, anticipatory, well educated and also prepared to persevere in adversity.

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

I would instil a culture of “can do” and optimism.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

Family and friends in the beautiful English countryside.

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

Nelson Mandela because of his integrity and wisdom.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.