My job

'We all have to work together'

Karen Wilson talks about her new role as director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professions at NHS Education for Scotland

Karen Wilson talks about her new role as director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professions at NHS Education for Scotland


Karen Wilson: 'Grab every opportunity'

What is your job?

From 1 January 2018, I have been director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professions at NHS Education for Scotland, but before that I was dean of the school of health, nursing and midwifery at the University of the West of Scotland. In my new role, I will be working with a wide range of stakeholders so that education is effective and responsive for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals (AHPs), as well as those delivering psychological services and spiritual care. This involves ensuring we have the workforce we need in these areas and that they are equipped to carry out their roles.

What will be your main responsibilities?

Quality assurance of the pre-registration programmes for nurses and midwives; developing and supporting the development of pre- and post-qualification education for all nurses, midwives and AHPs; and assisting care providers to ensure that care environments such as hospitals and care homes are also good educational environments for staff and students.

Why did you become a nurse?

As a teenager, I was taken into a neonatal unit and immediately I knew I wanted to become a midwife and care for tiny babies. At that time, you had to become a nurse first, so I did my nurse training and found I enjoyed all aspects of the job. I did become a midwife and achieved my ambition of working in a special care baby unit for a while but went back into adult nursing.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The opportunity to support a highly motivated group of staff to improve the experience of patients and clients of health or social care services.

How and where have you developed leadership skills?

I have had the privilege of working with many great leaders at various levels. I was lucky to be on an early King’s Fund nurse leadership programme, which taught me a lot about myself and showed me many forms of leadership. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to work in a leadership position in the Scottish Government, then as the first director of health professions and nursing care at the Scottish Ambulance Service and until recently at the University of the West of Scotland. This has allowed me different leadership opportunities and helped me to develop my ability to influence, persuade, challenge and engage with the staff I have led, to make sure we were all trying to achieve the same goals.

And will your current job make use of your skills?

I will be using these same skills in my new role to ensure that education, training and workforce development are near the top of the agenda and that we can deliver a workforce in Scotland that is well equipped for the roles they need to perform. No one organisation can do this on its own; we all have to work together.

What is the greatest challenge?

Trying to do things once, if at all possible, and reducing unnecessary duplication and variation.

What inspires you?

The future generation. When I meet students and young people, I am inspired that they have the skills and desire to do the best for patients, clients, families and their communities. The future is safe in their hands.

What do you do in your free time?

I have a ten-year-old daughter so I spend most of my free time with her. I am also studying for a doctorate. I love reading, have recently taken up painting and I am rediscovering my love of the mountains through skiing.

What achievement makes you most proud?

While working at the Scottish Government, I supported several national initiatives such as Flying Start NHS, and the introduction of practice education facilitators and early clinical career fellowships. All of these have stood the test of time.

What makes a good nurse leader?

The ability to listen, adapt to changing situations, keep patients and their families at the heart of decision making, and being compassionate both for others and for themselves.

What advice would you like to pass onto students and junior staff?

Grab every opportunity that comes your way, and take risks.

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