Nursing at UHS: from learning to leading

In this blog, Rosemary Chable tells us about the journey of her career - from student nurse to deputy director of nursing, and deputy director of education and workforce.

I knew I wanted to be a nurse when I got a nurse's uniform as a little girl. Interestingly, my school weren't very keen on the idea of me pursuing what they didn't see as an academic route. That's why I think it's wonderful now that nursing combines both a vocational and academic role. I secured my training place when I was fifteen, so three years later I was off to King's College Hospital in London. Training in London was very competitive at the time, which is why the lead time was so long, and I felt incredibly proud just to have the opportunity.

When I completed my training and came into the field after moving to Southampton to get married, there were too many nurses and not enough jobs, which meant I had to work extra hard to prove I deserved the role. I think there's something important about nurses not losing that self-belief and feeling deserving of their jobs regardless of the supply and demand. I'm really heartened by the newly qualified nurses that come in each year with such a sincere appreciation for the role, even if a job feels like it's guaranteed.

When I started nursing in Southampton, I fell into medicine for older people (MOP), or elderly care, as it was known back then - it was the job offered to me at the time - and I just loved it. I didn't look back! From there I became a ward leader, a staff development sister, a matron (known as a senior clinical nurse in those days) and then worked in education. In the late 1990s, I was lucky to be selected for a secondment to design and develop a role at UHS as a recruitment and retention nurse - one of only three in the country at the time. I think I’ve always been a solutions person, and so I was quite vocal about asking what we were doing to retain and recruit, and developed a recruitment strategy. I had the opportunity to go to the Philippines, Finland, Ireland, Singapore and India to start all the overseas recruitment, which we'd never done before. I feel incredibly proud of the things I helped to initiate that are still in practice today – the return to practice programme, recruitment of newly qualified nurses, and overseas recruitment, for example.

As a profession, nursing and patient care is continually improving and developing. We’re proud of the fact that we are striving to be better every single day. The practices of so many things might have changed over time, but there are things that don’t change as well. The heart of nursing is no different now to what it was thirty years ago – the essence of those six Cs (care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment and competence) are just the same, and drove me then just as they do now.

At UHS, there's definitely truth in the idea that you might start as one thing within the organisation, but there are so many opportunities for you to grow and develop. We're so lucky that we're large, diverse and always improving - so there are always things you can get stuck into! That’s why if you ask me what a UHS nurse needs to have, I think the most important thing is that appetite to improve. Don’t sit and wait for it to happen – make it happen. Always be a teacher, educator and supervisor for the next generation. Never forget where you came from, especially if you move away from direct clinical care. It’s so important to me that I always make sure the patient is still at the heart of everything I do.

I’m so proud of the nurses in this organisation, and every week when I attend induction, I have a huge amount of pride in telling them that they’ve made the right choice by coming here. Predominantly, our nurses have the right values, the right approach, and truly do put patients first. Every single day I see people going above and beyond to ensure that they’re putting our patients first and making the learning of our students a priority. We are a teaching Trust, and you can feel that in the things people do – teaching the next generation is part and parcel of the role. Every day there’s something I come across that makes me proud to be working with these nurses, and that is truly a privilege.