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'Listen to and observe people whom you wish to emulate'

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We talk to Ruth Westerby, a senior lecturer in health and social care at the University of Wolverhampton, and clinical lead for cardiovascular disease and evidence-based healthcare at Education for Health who qualified in 1987.

Why did you become a nurse?

I wanted a career in which I would develop skills and knowledge to make a positive difference. I knew ill health could make people vulnerable in so many ways, and that a little help can make a big difference.

Where did you train?

Bolton School of Nursing, Lancashire.

What was your first job?

I worked on a general medical ward – a mixture of acute admissions and people with longer-term needs – in Bolton General Hospital.

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

My daughter tells me I get ratty when I am tired. She is right.

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

I have learnt from a variety of people who have in common the ability to share knowledge enthusiastically and without any sense of their own importance.

What advice would you give someone starting out?

Listen to and observe people whom you wish to emulate. Ask questions if you do not understand, and ask for advice if you are unsure.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Being a part of a culture where, through learning, people can be enthralled and inspired and will make a difference to patients.

What’s your proudest achievement?

I am always proud when I am asked questions; I am pleased that I have conveyed my readiness to help if I can and do so without judgement.

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

Patient characteristics, service reconfiguration, working within multiple health providers and technological advances.

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

I would like to have one job in higher education and one with patients. This would keep me focused and enrich the work in both. I would like my patient job to be with older people; they are a fascinating, challenging and heterogeneous group.

What makes a good nurse?

A genuine desire to help and support, coupled with an ability to learn continuously about changing evidence, changing environment and themselves.

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

Ooh, that is hard…. possibly the fragmentation of health workforces; I’d re-engender a “we can do it” sense in nursing teams rather than watch them worry about individual futures.

What’s your ideal weekend?

Being in France with my husband and daughter, walking the dog, and ending the days with a meal in the garden watching the sun go down, listening to the birds, the church bell and possibly a little Breton music in the distance.

If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?

I am starting a doctorate and, while it might be handy if I could ask Jean-Paul Sartre a few questions (especially in a cafe with other intellectuals), I am going to opt for JK Rowling and ask what inspired her to write my favourite line of all time in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: “It is our choices that make us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

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