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'The nurse of the future will be adaptable to changes in environments'

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Laura hailes professional picture

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a nurse. My auntie is a nurse and while I was growing up I could see that she was having great adventures – living in London and travelling to Australia. And what’s more, her career was helping her to do these great things. The defining moment came to me at the age of five, when my auntie was an occupational health nurse for McVities. I thought, “YES, this is the career for me – you get paid in Jaffa Cakes!”

What was your first job in nursing?

I stayed on the ward where I’d completed my final placemen – male oncology. This was a rotational post that saw me spending time on the mixed teenaged and young adults ward. This was a great experience for me as an adult trained nurse to broaden my skills and work more with the whole family unit.

Where did you train?

University of Nottingham. I grew up in Bedfordshire, moved here for training and sort of forgot to go back home. I’ve been here now for over ten years – I love it!

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

The sister (Kelly Harrison) on my first ward when I began as a newly qualified staff nurse. Despite being so junior, she gave me my own areas of the ward to be responsible for. She also gave me protected time to work on improvement projects and encouraged any ideas I had. This really let me own the changes I wanted to make, enabled me to feel like my professional opinion was valued and made me feel I could really make a difference. When I heard of my friends’ experiences, I realised that my sister was unique in her approach. This impact stuck with me and later on, when I was implementing trust-wide change, I was keen to help other frontline staff feel like they had a voice too.

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

Use your time as a student to experience a wide variety of insight visits. Take control of your own learning. If you’re not getting what you need, don’t be afraid to see how you can influence this.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

I love the fact that nursing is so diverse. In my relatively short career so far, I’ve had many varied roles and pretty limitless opportunities – like staying with F.D Roosevelt’s Family in the US and meeting astronauts. I feel very privileged and proud to be able to call myself a nurse. I enjoy being able to make a difference, whether that be by direct patient contact, or through improving quality and delivery – which of course, ultimately strive to benefit patients too.

What do you think makes a good nurse?

Being able to think on your feet, mastering the art of multi-tasking and having a strong sense of purpose in whatever you do. However diverse the role, everything we do is to help our communities and citizens.

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

I’m very practical and prefer to be creative. This works in my favour when I’m practicing clinically. But now that I have a more office-based research role, I have to be very strict with myself to stay focussed on the more academic side of things. It’s a work in progress.

What keeps you awake at night?

Well, you’re speaking to the girl who can sleep anywhere, even while riding pillion on a motorbike down a dual carriageway. Perhaps it’s all those years of night shift breaks, trying to snooze on makeshift beds made of staffroom furniture. While not waking up, I have been known to sleep-talk. Last time I was apparently shouting “I need the tablets now”! Maybe all those hours waiting for discharge prescriptions has taken its toll on my unconscious mind.

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

Reshuffles. I understand the need for change- and more often than not, I’m the instigator. But constant cycles of reshuffles and re-organisations prevents us from making good sustainable improvements.

What do you think is likely to change nursing in the next decade?

We will. I think nurses will change over the next decade (as we already have over the previous decade). I think the nurse of the future will be adaptable to changes in environments and adept to working across systems, organisations and boundaries. They will routinely engage in frontline change and improvement work and will be politically savvy – knowing who to influence and how.

What’s your proudest achievement?

I’ve got two. First, graduating! I had some setbacks at uni (with a dodgy knee, surgery and rehab). This meant  I took an extra two years to finish my training. I remember crying on the way to the ceremony. Not really believing that the day had finally arrived.

Second, being nominated at the Nursing Times’ Awards. I was so shocked and humbled – and I still am, a couple of years down the line. I feel that it not only gave me recognition for the work I’d done, but spurred me on to go out there and see what more I could achieve.

What would your ideal weekend involve?

Being outside on a summer evening at a festival with tasty food, good beer and great company. Listening to live music whilst the sun sets. Bliss.

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