We talk to Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, and a nurse for more than 30 years.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
At the age of four or five I was bought a nurse’s uniform by my mother, who wasn’t a nurse. The following year, instead of getting a dolls’ house, I was given a mini-hospital I had to paint. I was then admitted to hospital as a child with a fractured hip and saw what nurses did. From then on, I wanted to be a nurse.
Where did you train?
I trained in what I consider the best hospital ever, the Ulster Hospital in Belfast.
What was your first job?
Staff nurse in the cardiac unit, ward 15 in the Ulster Hospital; a fabulous place to work.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
Probably my attention to detail and being a bit of a workaholic.
Whom have you learnt most from in your career and why?
I have learnt so much from many people. In real terms, Rosemary Kennedy, who was the previous CNO for Wales, about the need to influence, and my boss Peter Carter because of his commitment to a full-team approach. Also, there is my work in the military. I have seen so many fantastic leaders on operations, it would be difficult to name just one.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Come into the profession with your eyes open. Public demands are changing, resourcing is tight and you have to remember you went into nursing to care for people.
What keeps you awake?
Knowing what challenges nurses face. It is a constant uphill battle to try to make sure that when a nurse brings you a concern, you deal with it in the most professional way you can, balancing the public perception of what nursing is with their expectations. At the same time, you know that to make a change you sometimes have to make the public aware of what nursing is up against.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Achieving for patients. Professionally committed and satisfied nurses will deliver the ultimate standard of care.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Becoming a nurse.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
Two things - compassion and knowledge. You need the ability to think to assess your patients, drawing on a strong foundation of knowledge, while never forgetting you are in nursing to care for patients.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
Making sure nurses have the sufficient resources to deliver care to the required standards.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Relaxing, a bit of exercise and spending time with my family.
If you could spend an hour in someone’s company, who would it be and why?
Winston Churchill. He faced so many challenges, had the courage of conviction and believed he was doing some good. I would also like to know what made him tick.