What did you want to be when you were at school?
I decided I wanted to be a nurse aged 4 when my father got the flu. I wrote to Guy’s Hospital, London, when I was 13 asking if I could come and train there. I got a reply asking me to write back when I was 17. I did – and started my training in February 1980.
What were your first impressions of nursing?
I loved every minute of my training - except obstetrics! My first ward as a student nurse was a male medical ward – Nightingale style with a row of beds either side.
I think I spent more time in the sluice as there was really nowhere else to hide! It was in the days when we had to clean bed pans, so I always made sure they were very shiny. As first years, we only spoke to the students the year above us, the qualified staff were way too important for a first year to talk to!
Did you receive any words of wisdom when you were a student?
I particularly remember one patient who decided to teach me the golden rules of nursing…“Always look busy, always be busy…and always blame someone else!” I agree with two of them!
How would you recommend your career to a young person?
It is such a diverse career with so many opportunities to do different roles. There really is something for everyone and there is always a job that needs doing.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of career advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t vocalise your self-doubt to others — they will believe it even more than you do. I always have suffered really badly with the ‘imposter syndrome’ feeling. A colleague once took me aside and said I had to stop doubting myself and believe instead that I could do it, so I have always really tried to do that.
Where do you work now?
I work at the Foundation of Nursing Studies, which aims to improve nursing care. It’s a tiny organisation that makes a big impact and has a lovely culture of caring, developing and nurturing nurses.
Can you describe your work now in 1 sentence?
I organise, plan, arrange, talk about and facilitate resilience based clinical supervision to nurses and allied health professionals. I do this on a part time basis.
What is resilience based clinical supervision?
It is a form of clinical supervision characterised by: -
co-creating a safe space
integrating mindfulness-based stress-reduction exercises
focusing on the emotional systems motivating our response to a situation
considering the role of our internal critic in sustaining or underpinning our response to a situation
maintaining a compassionate flow to self, and consequently to others.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
I love the concept of resilience based clinical supervision — the process you follow really helps people recognise their emotions and how to deal with them.
The purpose is to get people to focus on how they are feeling, positively reframe their situation and get them to come up with solutions to help them get more enjoyment from their work. I love meeting people and sharing knowledge about the programme.
What qualities do you think you need to do your job well?
You need to be organised, learn from others, be passionate and believe in what you are doing.
What 3 words would your colleagues use to describe you?
Enthusiastic, thrives on ‘doing’, and can easily get a bit bored!
What was your best career move?
I have had so many but my favourite job was working for the NHS Institute of Innovation and Improvement on its Productive Community Services programme. I went all over England, to Scotland and Ireland, and to New Zealand and Australia twice, to deliver the programme.
It was an organisation-wide change programme that helped drive the systematic engagement of all front line community teams in improving quality and productivity. I believed in the programme — I was involved in its development — and loved delivering it to clinical staff.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extrovert as I hate being on my own!
What do you do to relax?
Run, swim and read. Yoga and Pilates, a bit of garden pottering.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Currently the CEO of the charity I work for - she exudes passion for nursing and can talk to anybody. Her networking skills are so good! I would love to have her ability to articulate what I am thinking!
Is the thought of retirement a dream or a nightmare?
I like to be involved and think that full retirement will be really hard — I will have to delete LinkedIn and Twitter or I will really feel I am missing out! I do think about who I will be if I’m no longer a nurse.
What do you hope will be your legacy to your profession and colleagues?
‘She was a real asset to the nursing profession’.
Sue Hill trained at (then) Guy’s Hospital, London, qualifying in 1983, part of the last cohort to qualify as a State Registered Nurse (SRN).
After various staff nurse roles in London she moved to Poole and trained to become a district nurse (obtaining a District Nursing Certificate) at the Wallisdown Institute, now part of Bournemouth University, in 1988.
After a short time in district nursing, she left work to have a baby and returned to practice in 1991. A full-time role as a district nurse in New Milton cemented her love of community nursing and she stayed in the team for 10 years. During this time she studied part time for a nursing degree at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2000.
In 2001 she left clinical nursing and subsequently took up a series of managerial roles in the community and in other settings, developing her leadership skills. In 2009 she had an opportunity to test a new concept being developed by the Institute of Innovation and Improvement, ‘Productive Community Services’ - a quality improvement programme for clinicians. She worked at the Institute until it closed in 2013 and then pursued other service improvement work, particularly focused on quantifying appropriate caseloads for community nurses.
In 2014 she moved to NHS England and spent a short time working in the nursing team as a district nurse adviser. Having done a lot of work to support and champion district nursing, she was also awarded the Queen’s Nurse award from the Queen’s Nursing Institute that year.
In 2015 she took up a role at Health Education England (HEE) as an education commissioner, managing a varied portfolio of education contracts and work programmes that supported workforce development initiatives across Wessex and beyond (worth £15 million +). As part of this role, she established a new adult nursing training programme at the University of Portsmouth, beginning January 2017.
The dissolution of education commissioning led her to become a workforce transformation lead at HEE in 2017, heading up the workforce transformation unit for a year two years later. Following a further restructure, she became a senior nurse for the SE region in early 2020, negotiating with Trusts and higher education institutes to facilitate the adequate provision of student placements.
After 40+ years in the NHS, Sue joined the Foundation of Nursing Studies as a project manager in 2023. A member of the RCN District and Community Nurse forum since 2014, she is its current Chair.