June 25, 2021, by sbzaj1

30 at 30: Nicola Fisher’s story

Transforming healthcare is accomplished in many ways, but a corner stone is the education of future professionals. I am currently sitting in a café in Bristol, having just completed my annual review for the second year of my PhD. While savouring this brief spell of down time, I have been reflecting on my journey so far and how the education and mentorship I have received has enabled me to be where I am today. My PhD is focused on nurses’ post-registration development, and my journey to this point has been twisty and entirely unplanned.

I have often thought that a University can be one of three things: your undoing, your making, or your salvation. Over the years, various universities have been all three to me at different times in my life. However, the University of Nottingham, and in particular the School of Health Sciences during my undergraduate nursing degree, is firmly in the second group: my making.

I arrived at the University of Nottingham in September 2012 to start the BSc(Hons) Adult Nursing course. At the start of my nurse training I assumed I would eventually be a clinical specialist of some description, more than likely in critical care outreach or emergency medicine. What I was not prepared for however, was the process of my nurse education and how much my eyes would be opened. An aspect that stands out to me the most about my time at Nottingham for my undergraduate training was the attitude of the School of Health Sciences. I was taught and encouraged to ask difficult questions, not be afraid to challenge the status quo, look beyond prescribed roles and boundaries of nursing practice and, above all, to be and stay curious. This attitude and mentorship opened my eyes to help me realise my potential and what opportunities and possibilities were out there for me as a nurse. Prior to my nurse training, I never believed it at all possible that I would have the capability to do a PhD, yet the attitude at Nottingham ultimately laid the foundations for my journey into research.

I was sponsored through my nurse training by the Army, so my post-qualification work was set from day one. It was during this time however that I started to notice a mismatch between the front-line, on the ground reality and what was promised and pushed at a policy level with regards to post-registration development in nursing. Due to an unplanned medical discharge from the Army, I pursued a law masters in Health, Law and Society at the University of Bristol to expand my knowledge on legal and governance influences on health and healthcare provision. As a result, my attention was drawn to the potential healthcare governance impact on nursing workforce development which eventually became the basis of my PhD. I was fortunate to be awarded an Economic and Social Research Council PhD studentship to do a research masters and my PhD back at the University of Nottingham.

I returned to Nottingham for my PhD because I valued the attitude that had nudged me in this direction in the first place. I have learnt over the course of this PhD so far that mentorship and support mechanisms will make or break you. My motivation for pursing my PhD topic was not just because of curiosity and frustration but also because I wanted to make a difference to the future of the profession. If any of my undergraduate teachers read this, something that I feel they will easily be able to confirm is that I had a nose and a stern level of perseverance for trying to change things and improve the environment that me and my peers worked and learned in. That drive was entirely fostered and developed at Nottingham and I have taken it with me into my registered practice. I believe that the creation of this foundation to push boundaries, to question and challenge is essential components to enable the transformation of healthcare. I am not saying I will be ‘the one’ to do it but maybe I can mentor others to do it. Maybe I can spark an interest or a passion in one of them that will break a glass

ceiling or two. This is all because of the attitude from being at the University of Nottingham for my nurse education that has eventually found its way into my DNA.

A message I feel people need to embrace is simple; never let anyone tell you that a journey needs to be linear to be successful. Mine is not and I do not consider that I have been any less successful (and hopefully in the future continuing to be so!) because I have tried different things (granted not always through choice) to follow my passions and interests. There has been no logical process to my journey; however, I firmly believe that this has at last worked in my favour. I do not know where my path will lead me next and I am OK with that. I am excited by that prospect and look forward to what other experiences, knowledge and people I will meet and learn from and with along the way. I do know one thing though; it will be transformative.

Thank you to the University of Nottingham. I hope at some point in the future I am in some way able to give back to you what you have given to me.

Nicola Fisher RN, BSc(Hons), MSc, LLM. PhD Candidate University of Nottingham. (BSc(Hons) Adult Nursing 2012-2015).

Posted in 30 Years of Nursing