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'Never be afraid to question'

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We talk to Theresa Shaw, Foundation of Nursing Studies chief executive and honorary senior research fellow in nursing and applied clinical studies at Canterbury Christ Church University. She has been a nurse for 30 years.

Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I was admitted to hospital aged eight with acute appendicitis. On the morning after surgery, one nurse was tasked with getting me up. I was in pain and fearful of moving. I remember her grabbing my legs and very sharply saying: “Come along, there’s nothing wrong with your legs.” Later that morning, with the help of another nurse who explained that, although moving would hurt, it would be ok, I managed to roll off the bed and get up. The next day, the nurse asked me to talk to a boy of around my age, who was also nervous about moving; it wasn’t long before we were playing football in the garden. I wanted to be a nurse from then. The approaches of the two nurses remain a strong memory.

Where did you train?
Croydon School of Nursing, Mayday Hospital. We had an inspirational tutor who championed the importance of learning both the science and art of nursing, and encouraged ambition and further study.

What was your first job?
I had a three-month rotation for a year at Mayday; the first three months were at Purley Hospital, a small community hospital, on an older people’s ward.

What advice would you give someone starting out?
Learn as much as you can about the science and art of nursing. Never be afraid to question. Use all your senses when caring for patients and their families. Seek out good role models and mentors.

What keeps you awake?
If something is not right I will be problem-solving through the night. It’s not always work - it might be how I can fix the tumble dryer.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Spending time with nurses in practice, hearing about how they are developing, and seeing fantastic patient care.

What’s your proudest achievement?
Every stage felt like an achievement. My doctorate was the biggest test and, at the graduation ceremony, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride.

What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
Graduate training, technology and hopefully the regulation of healthcare assistants will all contribute to nursing developing as a caring, knowledgeable and highly regarded profession.

What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I only ever wanted to be a nurse and I have never regretted it. I worked in a bank before training so I could have been a banker.

What makes a good nurse?
A desire to care. A thirst for knowledge. The ability to think critically and problem solve, along with common sense. Liking people, warts and all.

If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
More nurses at the bedside and more consistent care quality.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Theresa, I don't know if you are going to see comments, but you say:

    'Never be afraid to question'

    I would like to know, whether you yourself became more questioning, as a result of your doctoral studies ?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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