We talk to Janet Davies, director of nursing and service delivery at the Royal College of Nursing, who started training as a nurse 36 years ago.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
My main driver was a wish to leave school at 16 and nursing was an (almost) acceptable alternative to university for my parents. I wanted a job that could make a difference and grew to love nursing.
Where did you train?
At Withington Hospital in Manchester as a general nurse, then as a mental health nurse at Lancaster Moor Hospital.
What was your first nursing job?
I worked on an older persons’ rehabilitation ward.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I am impatient and want everything to happen yesterday. I think it makes other people feel pressured and doesn’t allow for reflection. I’d say I’m getting better at controlling it but others might disagree!
From whom have you learnt most in your career and why?
Karen Waters stands out. She was so well informed and used her academic role to ensure practice on the ward was evidence based and help the team develop their own practice. A very passionate nurse who was loved by the patients, she proved that “too clever to care” is nonsense. She made me understand the need for knowledge to give the best possible care and inspired me to undertake my first degree.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Maintain focus on the patient, don’t compromise and take every development opportunity. There is so much scope in nursing – believe it is all possible.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Hearing that actions we have taken has made a difference to nurses’ lives or practice.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
The financial situation, but nursing must be part of the solution, not the problem. I think new roles will be developed to deal with public-health issues and long-term disease, and nurses will take key leadership roles.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
Using your head, hands and heart. A nurse must have a caring attitude but it is vital to have in-depth knowledge and the ability to apply it.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I’d like a period of stability – to create an environment where practice can develop and initiatives be refined. Constant reorganisations waste money and detract from the things that really matter. Short-term innovations restrict potential and the benefit of learning, readjustment and progress.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
My bike, good food and drink, and the company of friends.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
George Clooney. Failing that, former director general of MI5 Dame Stella Rimington, who I heard speak recently and found incredibly interesting.