We talk to Alison Coull, lecturer at the University of Stirling and specialist nurse in the harm reduction team at NHS Lothian.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
My mum was involved in a serious road traffic accident when I was young. Her care in hospital was poor, and she discharged herself home. I decided then that I could do that job better and really wanted to nurse, and no one could persuade me out of it.
Where did you train?
I trained at the University of Glasgow, undertaking a four-year bachelor of nursing degree/registered general nurse, and qualified in 1986.
What was your first job in nursing?
I worked as a staff nurse on an acute surgical ward with vascular ENT and plastic surgical patients at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. I stayed there a year before going to undertake burns and plastics training in Salisbury.
Whom have you learnt most from in your career and why?
I have had a huge number of influences - and not all good. I think you have to learn from the “baddies” as well as the “goodies” in life and try and take something positive from every experience.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
You really have to want to nurse - it’s hard work and often thankless, but very fulfilling when you are given the opportunity to do the job you are trained to do.
What keeps you awake at night?
My next door neighbours.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
In my clinical time, I run a skin and wound care clinic for drug users in Edinburgh. I trained as an independent nurse prescriber so I can work more autonomously. I also really enjoy teaching students, particularly coordinating my online skin and wound care modules, and to me it’s important to be clinically credible as a teacher.
What’s your proudest achievement?
I was very proud to win a Smith and Nephew doctoral nursing research studentship to support my PhD studies - I am exploring chronic leg ulceration in young injecting drug users.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
I hope the all-graduate profession will herald changes, perhaps bringing some more confidence to the profession.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
A school teacher.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I like the job I do now.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
Intelligent, person-centred decision-making, with a sense of humour and good common sense.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
To return to the system where qualified nurses undertook the majority of care.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Being by the sea.