Tell us a little about your professional background. Why did you choose a career in nursing?

I chose a career in nursing because I’m a practical person and I like to be “doing”.  I was also really interested in human biology and this made me think that nursing might be the career for me. I began nursing in 1979 at North Manchester General Hospital and qualified as a Registered Nurse in 1981. I particularly enjoyed the brief placement I’d had on the maternity unit, so began my midwifery training there after working as a staff nurse.

I loved midwifery, particularly the patient contact and the privilege of looking after women and their partners at a very special time in their lives. I completed my “family planning” qualification whilst working as a midwife – this seemed a natural fit as it enabled me to advise women on contraception in the post-natal period. Over the years, I continued working in midwifery and in sexual health services, including both adult and young people’s clinics. I have always been enthusiastic about sexual health and I decided I wanted to work in the field full-time from 2005.

Can you give an overview of your responsibilities?

As Head of Service, I have overall responsibility for the day to day operation of the service.  My role is wide and varied and includes budgets, personal management, recruitment, planning and developing services and the many other issues involved in running an efficient people-focussed service.

What do you most enjoy about working in sexual health?

Every day is different and sexual health is a very dynamic area of nursing. It is a very rewarding area of nursing to work in.

Can you describe some of the challenges you face?

Sexual health is a specialised field of nursing requiring a postgraduate qualification and that can make recruitment challenging. To some extent, services are starting to develop dual-trained nurses which should resolve this issue. I think you need to be mindful of the overall morale of the team.  It can also be a challenge to ensure that we are able to provide the best available service with sometimes limited resources.

Do you have any professional role models? Who inspires you?

I am inspired by leaders who show great insight in their leadership.  I think it is important to know the team well so that you are able to support them on an individual basis.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in nursing today?

I would say that it is important to get a robust general training first to be sure that you want to specialize in this field. You will need not just theoretical knowledge but practical experience too. You will also need a non-judgemental approach and a desire to be able to empower patients by giving them knowledge to be able to make informed choices.