My job

'Seek a mentor and don't be afraid to ask for feedback'

GOSH chief nurse discusses why the NHS is something to safeguard and cherish

Alison Robertson is chief nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH), here she discusses why the NHS is something to safeguard and cherish

Chief nurse at GOSH Alison Robertson.
Picture: GOSH

Why did you become a children’s nurse?

After finishing my A levels, I wanted to go into a career that gave me hands-on training and would enable me to grow professionally and personally. It’s what drew me to nursing, and it’s a decision I have never regretted. 

Where did you train?

I first completed an integrated training programme at Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH), what was then known as the Middlesex Hospital  - now part of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - to qualify as a registered general nurse and registered sick children's nurse.

My career then took me into a variety of hospital-based posts working with children and young people and then to community outreach services where I worked with children as a clinical nurse specialist at the Royal Brompton Hospital. Working in a community setting provided me with invaluable skills and experience to supplement my hospital-based knowledge. I remain interested in care closer to home whenever this is possible, even though I now work in a highly acute, specialised tertiary environment.

What is your job?

Since April I have work at GOSH as the new chief nurse, where I have a varied portfolio of responsibilities. For example, I work closely with the medical director on the quality and safety agenda, focusing on patient experience. We have a vibrant community of patients and families visiting GOSH daily, so it’s about capturing their feedback and translating them into actions to improve their experience at what is a highly stressful time. We have an excellent children and young people’s forum who meet regularly and are a terrific source of invaluable information about what it is like to be a patient at GOSH.

As chief nurse, my role is also to provide clear direction and leadership for our nursing staff, helping them fulfil their potential and work effectively as a multidisciplinary team. This, in turn, enables us at GOSH to deliver the best possible standard of care to our children, young people and their families. With 63 different specialties, GOSH has one of the widest ranges of children’s services on one site. 

Nurses are essential in supporting the delivery of our mission to help children with complex needs fulfil their potential. For me it’s a great privilege and I am delighted to be back.

Where have you worked previously?

Before this role, I spent 30 years working in the NHS in clinical, managerial and leadership roles in several organisations.

In 2014 I decided to explore working internationally. I spent almost four years in Qatar as director of nursing in a general hospital just outside the capital Doha. It was a hugely rewarding experience which gave me the chance to help a new hospital develop nursing and build a strong foundation in nursing care.

What qualities do you think are essential to be an effective nurse?

An effective nurse should be compassionate to the unique circumstances of each patient and their family or carers. They should also be curious about what they do and be open to learning, flexible in their approach, positive, resilient and professional.

I appreciate that nursing can be emotionally and physically challenging, however it’s an amazing career and being able to make a difference to people when they are at their most anxious and vulnerable is incredibly rewarding.

What inspires you?

The NHS inspires me. It’s something that we should safeguard and cherish. It has changed so much from its original concept, like everything, it has needed to change over time. In the same way, GOSH has also gone through some incredible transformations from beginning as a ten-bed hospital in 1852 to becoming a leader in children’s healthcare, research and development.

What advice would you give a newly qualified nurse?

Take time to build your knowledge, skill set and immerse yourself in the experience. Seek a mentor and never be afraid to ask for feedback, in fact ask for it. More importantly, I would tell any newly qualified nurse to be proud of what they do.

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