Career advice

Inspired by patients

Anne-Maria Olphert says nursing is 'a big family that understands what you are going through'

Director of nursing and quality at Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust Anne-Maria Olphert says that helping to set up the first children’s intensive care unit in Leicestershire is the proudest moment of her career.

Why did you become a nurse?

I became a nurse in 1982. I remember seeing my grandfather sick in hospital and these wonderful ladies in immaculate uniforms nursing him, and thought I would like to make that much of a difference. It was one of the proudest moments of my life when I put on my uniform and, in those days, a cap and cloak.

What might you have done otherwise?

It is hard to imagine me doing anything else as I have only worked for the NHS, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the legal aspects of nursing and I would have liked to have worked in the judiciary system.

How and where have you developed your leadership skills?

I have been fortunate to receive a Florence Nightingale Nursing Leadership Award and a Winston Churchill Fellowship, which enabled me to attend a women’s leadership programme at Harvard and study end of life care in New Zealand. Many transformational and structural changes in the NHS have made me focus on ensuring everything I do is about being a great leader.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love meeting patients. We have some great wards and community settings where I can just say hello and get a feel for what they are experiencing. I also enjoy nurturing our future workforce. If we get it right for students, patients will benefit and the NHS will be left in safe hands.

What is your greatest challenge and how have you overcome it?

A shortage of nurses, and encouraging the right staff with the right skills to come and work in a big county. I work closely with the local university, which has a key role in helping us with staff supply, bearing in mind that students rely on us to provide the best placements we can.

What would you change if you could?

I would give staff more time for personal development. I would also remove all the unnecessary form filling, templates, and audits from frontline staff so they can spend more of their time caring and treating patients.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?

I would like to be in a job that still enables me to make a difference. I can retire at 55, but I cannot see it happening, so I would like still to be in a director of nursing post.

Professionally speaking, what has given you most satisfaction?

I am a qualified coach and have invested in coaching future aspiring directors. This gives me a great deal of satisfaction and I have seen many people I have coached improve and apply for roles.

What achievement makes you most proud?

I think I have made a real difference to patients’ end of life journey. I was also part of a team that set up the first children’s intensive care unit in Leicestershire in 1996, which runs today and has received great accolades.

What or who inspires you and why?

This is a bit cliché, but I am inspired by individuals who have overcome emotional or physical hurdles. Patients now attend trust boards to give their stories and every one of them has inspired me.

What do you enjoy doing outside work?

I am a clinical trustee for a children’s hospice, clinical supervisor for a local organisation that supports children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and I edit articles for clinicians to help them publish. Other than this, I enjoy spending time with my family and five-year-old grandson.

What makes a good nurse leader?

Someone who is resilient, flexible, adaptable and outgoing, with a sense of humour. He or she also should be able to listen to what’s not going well without becoming defensive and appreciate feedback, however hard it is to hear.

What advice would give a newly registered nurse?

Nursing is the best career. The day you walk into a nursing environment you are part of a big family that understands what you are going through. On the whole, everyone wants you to succeed.

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