Career advice

Making a difference

Abi Masterston urges older people's nurses to 'never settle for second best'

Abi Masterson has clear and simple advice for newly qualified older peoples nurses: Aim high, never settle for second best and never stop believing you can change the world.

Given her strong ambitions and extensive nursing career, it is surprising to learn that Ms Masterson had not always planned to become a nurse. She had been set on reading law at university, but at the age of 16, she got a Saturday job at Duncraggan Nursing Home, in Newport-on-Tay. She enjoyed it immediately and changed her subject choice to secure the necessary entrance qualifications.

I thought it would be a Saturday job to help me earn money rather than a career, but I absolutely loved it, she recalls. I enjoyed getting to know the residents and learning about their lives.

Ms Masterson trained at Edinburgh University on one of the first nursing degree programmes.

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Abi Masterson has clear and simple advice for newly qualified older people’s nurses: ‘Aim high, never settle for second best and never stop believing you can change the world.’

Given her strong ambitions and extensive nursing career, it is surprising to learn that Ms Masterson had not always planned to become a nurse. She had been set on reading law at university, but at the age of 16, she got a Saturday job at Duncraggan Nursing Home, in Newport-on-Tay. She enjoyed it immediately and changed her subject choice to secure the necessary entrance qualifications.

‘I thought it would be a Saturday job to help me earn money rather than a career, but I absolutely loved it,’ she recalls. ‘I enjoyed getting to know the residents and learning about their lives.’

Ms Masterson trained at Edinburgh University on one of the first nursing degree programmes. When she qualified, there were no jobs available at the local hospital so she worked as a bank staff nurse.

After three months, she secured a post in a ward specially set up to care for older people with physical and mental health needs. ‘These were patients with complex needs and the ward had a mix of general and older people’s nurses,’ she says.

She explains what made her confident about older people’s nursing as a career choice. ‘Throughout my training, I thought that older people were getting a raw deal from most health services,’ she says.

‘I wanted to play a role in changing things for the better. I also realised it was an area of care in which the quality of nursing makes a difference to people’s lives.’

Ms Masterson soon moved to England because of the opportunities it offered for career development. She specifically wanted to complete a specialist qualification in nursing older people.

‘Once I got the qualification, I wanted to run my own ward,’ she says.

After working for a short period as a staff nurse, Ms Masterson became a ward sister at Manor Park Hospital, Bristol.

Teaching and research posts followed. At St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, she taught pre-registration students about older people’s nursing. After training to become a nurse teacher, she taught at the RCN Institute of Advanced Nursing Education before taking up a post as a researcher at the University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies.

Ms Masterson says: ‘I have been fortunate to have lots of opportunities to do interesting things in my career. I went into research and education because it is a way of changing practice.’

In 1998, she established her own consultancy and now undertakes work for a range of organisations, including government health departments, regulatory bodies and professional associations.

One of her most rewarding projects was working with the Enhancing the Healing Environment (EHE) team at the King’s Fund. She supported programme director Sarah Waller and her team’s evaluation of the EHE projects on the development of tools for professionals to assess the dementia friendliness of their organisations.

She continues to pursue the development of her own skills and is in the final year of a professional doctorate in organisational change at Ashridge Business School.

In October last year, Ms Masterson was appointed to a part-time position as deputy chief executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF).

‘The FNF is unique in the contemporary healthcare environment,’ she says. ‘In an era of austerity and shrinking budgets it is good to offer nurses opportunities to travel, get better education, undertake research and acquire leadership skills. It is fantastic to be involved in programmes that aid nurses’ development.’

Ms Masterson looks forward to helping enhance the scholarship and leadership development programmes offered by the FNF to ensure nurses can ‘secure the resources they need, whatever sector they work in’.

‘It is important that we have confident and courageous nurses who can take on leadership roles to advance the care of patients,’ she says.

For more information about the Florence Nightingale Foundation visit www.florence-nightingale-foundation.org.uk

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