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'Always keep your integrity and be kind both to patients and colleagues'

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We talk to Susan Tokley, deputy director of nursing and patient experience at Whittington Health, who qualified as a nurse in 1980.

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

Two of my aunts were nurses and it was something I had wanted to do since I was five. I did dally with being a pharmacist but changed my mind pretty quickly after I failed my chemistry O-level.

Where did you train?

Addenbrooke’s, Cambridge

What was your first job in nursing?

Staff nurse on a general surgical ward

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

Trying to fit in too many things in a short space of time then being late for the next thing.

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

Biddy Magill, who was my first ward sister, and the many families I came into contact with who were affected by the organ retention issues a number of years ago.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the profession?

It’s a great profession and a great career. It can take you anywhere but you only get out of it what you put in. Always keep your integrity and be kind both to patients and colleagues.

What keeps you awake at night?

Knowing I have too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Selecting and spotting great staff, supporting them to develop then seeing them become better than me.

What’s your proudest achievement?

My two sons.

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

The increase in support staff and the likely reduction in the numbers of qualified staff, combined with an even greater increase in technology in healthcare.

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

Possibly a hairdresser. But one with my own business.

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

I love the job I have now but would consider a more senior role if something came up that looked really interesting.

What do you think makes a good nurse?

Someone with intelligence, compassion, kindness and an ability to initiate change for the better on behalf of patients.

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

Remove the political angle that results in constant change that detracts from delivering care.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

A bit of yoga, swimming, shopping, a film and a nice meal.

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

Hilary Clinton because of her efforts to change the American healthcare system that paved the way for Barack Obama to try again.

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