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'Remember your role in protecting patients'

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We talk to Tom Quinn, professor of clinical practice at the University of Surrey, who has been a nurse for 33 years.

Why did you become a nurse?

I was a St John Ambulance cadet and was encouraged by nurses who did voluntary work and acted as role models. Some family members were nurses.

Where did you train?

I did my general nursing at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, orthopaedic nursing training in Bath, and specialist training in cardiac nursing at the National Heart Hospital in London.

What was your first job?

Staff nurse on a busy general medical ward at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital.

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

I talk too much.

From whom have you learnt most in your career?

Chris Morland, a senior sister at Barts, Sir Roger Boyle, Sir Muir Gray and Professor David Thompson taught me more than I could imagine – not just clinically, but about leadership and inquiry, challenging the status quo when patients were not getting the best care, and getting the best out of people.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Try to achieve and maintain a balance between excellence in clinical practice, intellectual rigour and getting on with people in a team. Remember your role in protecting patients.

What keeps you awake at night?

Micromanagement and poor practice.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Getting the best out of others.

What is your proudest achievement?

I have two – helping to write the National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease, which has done so much to improve care and outcomes, and having the courage to raise concerns about patient safety when I worked in a trust. These are not in order of importance.

What will change nursing in the next decade?

We need to encourage the brightest and the best to join – by “the best” I mean those who remember that dignity and safety are absolutes, while recognising that we need a more robust evidence base and helping to remedy that through engaging in research. Plenty of student nurses have those attributes.

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

I did go off to be a full-time law student after being a senior staff nurse, but missed nursing too much. Weekend bank work wasn’t enough so I came back. I also spent some time at the Department of Health, which was exhilarating.

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

I have never had a game plan and tend to take opportunities if and when they arise.

What makes a good nurse?

Getting the balance right.

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

Place more value on its multidisciplinary nature – we are all in this together. I include patients and families in the definition of multidisciplinary.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

Time with my partner and friends, a long walk followed by Old Speckled Hen and catching up on a political drama.

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

President Josiah Bartlett from The West Wing (Martin Sheen).

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Readers' comments (1)

  • How can a registered nurse follow the code of practice and put patients first and act in the patients best interest when she is working for the DWP as an assessor for the employment and support allowance? making decisions that override qualified Doctors and which cause distress for people and still be registered as a qualified nurse with the NMC? surly this needs attention. As a qualified nurse and a person having had to undergo one of these assessments I feel the nurse who under took the assessment is in direct conflict with the Code of Practice and therefore should not be allowed to work as a "registered nurse " under these circumstances especially when she is obviously putting the DWP interests before the interests of the person she is assessing. and the NMC code of practice

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