We talk to Trisha Grocott, reader in palliative wound care at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London, who qualified as a nurse in 1973.
Why did you become a nurse?
I wanted a job helping people in difficulty. I thought about relief work, but I find difficulty that arises as a result of cruelty hard to witness. I volunteered in a hospice to see if nursing was for me. I found being with people who are sick, have long-term conditions and need palliative care rewarding and challenging. I also discovered a research objective.
Where did you train?
St George’s Hospital, London.
What was your first job in nursing?
Staff nurse in an acute district general hospital.
From whom have you learnt most in your nursing career?
Patients taught me to listen carefully, so I would understand their needs through their language and expressions.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Find out if nursing is for you by working as a healthcare assistant. Gain experience in the community and an acute hospital. Develop writing skills and be competent in mathematics, which is vital for calculating medications. Learn to be constructively critical of your and others’ observations to avoid jumping to conclusions, which may be wrong and cause upset and harm.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
The sense of accomplishment when patients and clinicians see the benefits of research. We have been working with people with epidermolysis bullosa on body wrap systems. When patients say products have cut dressing change time by a third, they feel free without bandages and can wear shoes again, these are satisfying moments.
What’s your proudest achievement?
At my PhD degree ceremony, Professor Wilson Barnett read out the title of my thesis: An Evaluation of the Palliative Management of Fungating Malignant Wounds, within a Multiple-Case Study Design. Someone had said “you are not going to read that out, are you?” The achievement was twofold: being awarded the PhD and the recognition the professor placed on the subject and its importance for patients.
What will change nursing?
The demographic profile in the UK, in particular older people. A graduate workforce means nurses will lead and supervise students to a greater extent. Technology will change care, particularly remote monitoring. Nurses will still need to be hands on to maintain patients’ dignity when they are less able to look after themselves - that is the essence of real nursing.
What makes a good nurse?
Being able to feel what patients are going through and using this to plan and deliver care in a way so they feel valued and safe.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
The despair experienced by people with advanced disease when different specialisms are involved but no one person is coordinating care.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
The author and academic HP Rickman who has sadly now died. I came across his book called Understanding and the Human Studies when I was struggling with my PhD - it turned my study around.