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'Nurses who are starting out, be kind to yourself'

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We quiz Mark Radcliffe, Nursing Times columnist and senior lecturer in nursing and midwifery

Why did you become a nurse?

A woman I knew was training to be a nurse and seemed to be enjoying it. It was nursing or speech therapy and I worried speech therapy might prove too sedate. Or involve mime.

Where did you train?

Friern psychiatric hospital.

What was your first job in nursing?

Staff nurse acute psychiatry, Royal Free Hospital, London.

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

Moody, impatient, always losing gloves, easily distracted (wife adds untidy and something else but I wasn’t listening).

Whom have you learnt most from in your career and why?

Three very different patients. They reminded me to be creative and to recognise expertise where it is rather than where it claims to be.

What advice would you give nurses starting out?

Be kind to yourself.

What keeps you awake?

Questionnaires. Things I wish I had done better. The inexorable march of time. My wife snoring.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Being around the compassion and curiosity of students.

What’s your proudest achievement?

My daughter says I am the best dad in the world. Getting Gabriel’s Angel published and well received, given the self doubt I can generate, it was nice.

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

The colonisation of care and language by economists means that nursing talks about the wrong things - cost, customers, budgets. In so doing, it surrenders its worth and future.

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

Speech therapist? Doubt it. Maybe teach. I once had a fine singing voice… travel guide? No idea, but I would have written stuff no matter what.

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

I like what I do. I want to write two more books. I harbour a secret and bizarre ambition to train as a chiropractor.

What do you think makes a good nurse?

Self-awareness, emotional literacy, the ability to show softness when it is helpful.

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

The NHS should be independent of the government and operate according to a charter and a budget. No internal market, no inter-trust competition.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

Long lay-in with the family surrounded by books and the papers. Outdoors all together - allotment, swimming, walking on the downs. Stuff like that - key word is “together”.

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

My daughter but I can and do every day so… maybe my dad. He died when I was very young. I’m not wholly convinced he was a good man. I’d quite like to ask him what that was all about. Or Nelson Mandela. He’d be cool.

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