We talk to Anne McNicholas, nursing ambassador for Project Harar, who has worked as a nurse for more than 30 years
anne mc nicholas
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
Originally I applied to join the police force but I was too small. But really, I received excellent healthcare when I was younger and was so impressed by the nursing staff that I was inspired to aim for a similar role.
Where did you train?
I completed my training in Rochdale.
What was your first job in nursing?
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
There are two traits I don’t like in myself – impatience and intolerance. High standards are very important to me but it can be difficult and it doesn’t make life easy – particularly when I’m working abroad.
From whom have you learnt the most in your career?
Sister Bridget in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She has absolute compassion, treats everyone with dignity and is incredible at diagnosing patients – she doesn’t use any technology, she just uses the basics and listens to what patients say.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Always ask questions, check things, don’t take anything for granted and be honest.
I’m proud that I stood up and told the truth when a baby died as a result of neglect. Everyone else wanted to cover it up
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing. Project Harar works me so hard that I fall into bed and sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
In England, it is knowing that I’ve succeeded in making a patient feel comfortable. In Addis Ababa, it is achieving good outcomes for the children we treat.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Standing up and telling the truth when a baby died as a result of neglect. Everyone else wanted to cover up the truth. Also, when I worked in Romania we managed to get vital treatment and services for children who were HIV positive. Previously, they had just been ostracised.
What is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
People seem to be moving away from hands-on care and doing unnecessary paperwork.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I’d have been a photographer or a politician.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
Actually, I would like to still be travelling and working, but also I’d like to do more reading and gardening, and spending time with my grandchildren.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
Compassion and being a good team member.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
In England, I would reduce the waiting times in accident and emergency by making more people aware that they can treat themselves and their children. In Addis Ababa, I would make more people aware of the work we do, the lives we change for the better.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Watching cricket with a glass of wine.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
David Beckham. He is a model of modern fatherhood, playing an active part in the lives of his children. He’s also quite fit!