UNISON head of nursing Gail Adams on her work, why she loves nursing, and how her career was almost cut short before it began.
Getting started in nursing
I started my nurse training in 1984 at St Georges in South London. I worked in a variety of areas including orthopaedics and surgical cancer care. I then moved into the operating theatres, working in the recovery unit caring for patients immediately after they’d had their operations. I looked after high dependency and intensive care patients before moving into main theatres.
I then moved to the trust’s education department and became an education team leader within theatres
I almost lost everything
I love nursing, but the career I always dreamed of was almost over before it started.
I have psoriasis and when I began my training I was put under pressure by the school of nursing to quit. Everything came to a head during my first placement on a medical ward when I was called to the nursing officer’s room and suspended because of my skin.
“I love nursing, but the career I always dreamed of was almost over before it started.”
I went to my trade union NUPE for help as I thought the way I was being treated was so unfair. They agreed, especially as, before I’d even started my training, I’d spoken to the school about my skin problem and seen the occupational health people to make sure I was safe to practice.
NUPE helped me fight my corner and the district nursing officer agreed that I should be allowed to continue my studies and even said that I hadn’t been treated with the compassion and sensitivity that I deserved.
This gave me the confidence to go on and finish my studies and have the career I loved.
My work for our nursing members
I continued to increase my involvement in NUPE, which then became UNISON, as I really enjoyed helping members and taking cases as a UNISON rep and branch secretary. So, I was delighted to get the job of Head of Nursing where I can take forward the concerns of our profession and really make the voices heard of the nurses and health workers that I meet everyday.
Throughout my career I have worked with some amazing people - and I know that I couldn’t have achieved what I have without their help. The bottom line is that nursing gives you a unique opportunity to help others, sometimes during their worst times, and that is a privilege.
And that’s what UNISON is here for too – to support you as you support your patients.
So, please explore this site and find out how we can help you.