My job

'I’ve had wonderful role models in my career'

Take every opportunity, learn from the lessons being taught to you and above all be ambitious, urges director of nursing Angela Thompson. 

Angela Thompson, director of nursing and deputy regional chief nurse for NHS Improvement London region, urges ambitious nurses to seize opportunities

What does your role involve?

Working with healthcare providers across London, supporting staff to provide the best healthcare standards for our patients.

Why did you become a nurse?

When I was a teenager, my grandmother was ill. I helped look after her, and met some inspirational and caring people.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The ability to work across the health sector in London to achieve the ambitious goals in mental health. There’s a real breadth and depth to the role as I’m working with colleagues in specialist hospitals right through to district general hospitals. But the focus is always on patients, which is what makes me so excited about the job.

How and where have you developed leadership skills?

I’ve done some fantastic programmes. There was the 12-month RCN leadership programme, and one of the best courses for personal development and honing leadership skills was a Florence Nightingale Foundation leadership scholarship. I would encourage any nurse to undertake this if they have the opportunity. It enables you to build your own bespoke leadership programme to look at healthcare in a different country and see what lessons can be learned and brought back to inform care here.

I’ve also had wonderful role models in my career from ward sisters to matrons and chief executives who’ve demonstrated good leadership.

How does your current job make use of your skills?

It’s more about influencing than management so it’s about remembering to listen to people, understanding their issues and then helping them to come to their own solutions, then advising accordingly.

What is the greatest challenge?

The breadth of the role can be a challenge as it’s not always easy to find the time to give full commitment to the organisations you’re working with. I’ve recently finished a study, funded by the Research for Patient Benefit scheme, looking at the experiences of people with learning disabilities in acute hospital settings. Finding the time to write up the outcomes and recommendations for practice has been a big challenge. It’s so important to get the findings into the public domain so we can improve the experiences for this client group.

What inspires you?

Providing the best care for patients, developing my staff and ensuring they get recognition for the great work they do. Working in healthcare is not an easy job and we need to recognise and value the contribution of our staff.  

What do you do in your free time?

My job is my hobby and always has been. But I enjoy exploring other countries on holiday. I own two dogs and do a lot of walking with them, and until recently I was a volunteer at a local animal shelter charity on Saturdays.

What achievement makes your most proud?

Improving outcomes for patients and ensuring they get the best care possible. I’m also proud of being able to develop staff, seeing them progress in their career and helping them make the most of great opportunities.

What makes a good nurse leader?

Passion for the job. You must be interested in continually developing not only yourself, but your service and your team. Also, being a good listener, motivating people and earning their respect.

What advice do you have for students and junior staff?

I’d tell them they can have a fantastic career in the NHS but don’t expect to be handed opportunities on a plate. I’ve always sought out opportunities whether that has been travel scholarships, funding to undertake research, or finding colleagues to work with on service improvement. Go out there and see what great care looks like and then use lessons learned to provide the best care for your patients. Make the most of opportunities that crop up and most importantly of all, enjoy it.

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