I am currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department for Children & Young People’s Health however when starting out as a nurse, I never anticipated that I would become a nurse academic.
Although I knew from the age of 4 (according to family lore) that I wanted to be a nurse, I decided not to follow the traditional ‘apprenticeship’ route in to nursing. Instead, I chose to go to university and studied for a BSc (Hons) Sociology and Social Policy with Registered General Nurse. I wanted the experience of reading for a degree, learning new ideas and being challenged academically. At university, I attended lectures with several hundred students where we all sat frantically scribbling down the ‘wise words’ of the lecturers. A favourite lecturer was Joan Higgins, admired not only because she was a Professor but also for her style, her ability to hold the attention of the class and also because she would distribute a one page handout of key points! My lecturers taught me the power of the spoken word, the importance of expert knowledge and the role of performance in the lecture theatre.
I worked as a Children’s Nurse specialising in neonatal cardiology and then neonatal surgery. I established teaching programmes for student nurses and newly qualified staff in the clinical areas where I was working. Clinical teaching is essential to enable staff to question their practice and ensure that it is current and evidence-based so that ultimately, the child and family receive the best possible care. Even now, when I now no longer provide direct nursing care, the child and family are central to my teaching.
Moving in to the university in 2001 was a major decision, forcing me to question my identity and role in nursing. I had been comfortable teaching in clinical practice and was now faced with teaching from between 12 to 180 students, and using a range of different teaching techniques. I rapidly became familiar with large-group lectures and found I enjoyed the challenge of engaging the students. I became a performer and raconteur and have always illustrated my lectures with anecdotes and stories. I learned about problem-based learning and the skill of facilitation, struggling to hold back on providing the answers and instead, encouraging the students to question and explore knowledge to develop their understanding. I have developed workshops, role plays, case studies and simulations. I am learning about e-learning. I have come full circle – I am back to reading, learning new knowledge and being challenged to inspire and educate the nurses of the future.