The past week was a whirlwind of train journeys; frantic emails from often distraught others, frenetic walks back and forth across campus and being witness to surreal and metaphysical musings by a former Secretary of State for Health. Monday started early with meetings with colleagues looking at the changes a foot in Midwifery, Phd’s and Strategic Planning. At 10am I got to meet one of the groups of students who have just completed their studies with us. This was an interesting meeting, which allowed me to hear from the students how they had experienced being with us. Whilst there was much spoken of what we might have done better, it was also great to hear of those areas where the student experience had been good. Then it was on to a meeting to hear some suggestions for a project that looked at different ways of working with those people who were homeless and living on the streets of Manchester and Salford. It was a humbling meeting to be confronted with tales of continued stigma and tales of such unwillingness to accept there was even an issue in a modern city like Manchester. The discussion provided an uncomfortable juxtaposition of certainty and uncertainty over my emotional location with the media city zeitgeist I am also a part of.
An extraordinary meeting of Senate followed, with challenging decisions being taken over future assessment processes for students. After a brief interlude that was the University Research Strategy Implementation meeting, it was off to meet participants in this years Education in a Challenging Environment. The setting was perfect, the Salford Museum and Art Gallery, and the company excellent. By all accounts the conference turned out to be a great success. Well done to all those involved.
Tuesday and Wednesday were spent at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement with a group of other invited senior nurses from education and practice, many of whom were old friends and/or friends who were becoming old. This is not meant to be a flippant remark, but one that raises where such experience will be found once this group move on and retire. I was left wondering whether I was doing enough to mentor others so that they too might have the opportunity and motivation to influence and lead the future development of nursing. This was an underlying theme to the meeting as the two days were spent, amongst other things, looking at the progress to date of the work of the Prime Ministers Commission on Nursing – a feedback report is due out in the next few weeks, so I am unable to say too much here, BUT I was struck by the certain thought that we as individual nurses, as communities of practitioners needed to become a great deal more assertive. If we fail to do this, we will fail nurses everywhere. There are enormous opportunities to get our collective voice heard. If we don’t seize these opportunities then we our voice will be drowned out in the cacophony of sound that results from ill-informed perceptions, selfish and territorial professional attacks aimed at protecting and defending power and autonomy across the health and social care professions. Is it only me that thinks the observations and calls from the medical profession are becoming ever more strident and worried about what it is the nurse of the future might be engaged in, or more particularly how such activities might erode the medical hegemony. I heard a medical colleague lead a debate at a dinner party the other week where one doctor railed against the very concept of Nurse Led Services, and longed for the days where he knew what his nurses did on his Ward. Perhaps we gave ground too easily in our response to the implications of the European Working Time directive.
Part of the time during these two days was also given over to exploring the value of Experience Based Design (of health care services). This was an area very close to my own research interests, and of course is a major part of the Whole School Project approach. What was also interesting for me was the uncomplicated way non-academics described the process they were engaged in. Not for them the debates around the merit or other wise of ethnomethodology, for me, the conceptual rubric in use, but a straightforward and uncomplicated explanation - we go out, talk, observe, and then share with those same people what it is we found in trying to find explanations and possible new ways forward – very refreshing.
Thursday was a great celebration and showcasing of how far colleagues across the University had come in working together to grow our expertise as researchers. The energy and innovation was wonderful, and when the presentations are put on-line, I urge you to have a look at the many examples presented. It is worth considering that for every one example presented on the day there were at least three or four other examples of collaboration that did not get mentioned. It was a stocktaking opportunity that revealed a potentially bright future for research at Salford. When I got home that night and looked at my emails there was one from Jennie my ever present and superbly effective PA, reminding me there was a film crew arriving at 8am to film some footage for a forthcoming University DVD. I was at my desk at 6.30am, hair under control, newly dried cleaned suit on, looking good even if I say so myself (apparently earlier that week, in a poll to judge the best dressed male in the School, I had come third).
You can imagine my surprise when the film crew eventually arrived only to ask where these dolls and dummies were that they had to film? Cruelly, in what had been a long week, my chance of stardom slipped quickly and quietly away as I humbly showed the film crew the skills lab. As it happened, the day turned out OK, and colleagues and I able to appoint two highly respected and gifted colleagues to part time research fellow posts within the School. Perhaps in dosing so we were, in a small way able perhaps reverse the growing trend of losing experience and knowledge from the intellectual crucible of nurse education noted above.
And the Station Waiting room, Ah, well, I was patiently waiting in the business lounge at Coventry Station, reading the paper, sipping pretty good coffee, when the door at the rear of the room burst open, and two completely incognito plain clothes policemen rushed in followed by an entourage of what looked like blond bright young things, male and female, who fussed around a ruddy and somewhat familiar face. It was, I realized, none other than Alan Johnson (MP), the former Secretary of State of Health and now the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
I maybe wrong but I don’t think the current Government has set up a ministry to assist MPs to more carefully spend their expenses at John Lewis’s so the Department must mean something else.
I resisted the temptation to engage in conversation around the current state of the NHS and what might have brought us to where we are today. So I returned to my news paper with just one eye and ear tuned to what was going on. Whilst Alan Johnson’s stay in the lounge was only ever going to be brief there was an opportunity for refreshment, and he did get up to make himself a cup of tea from the grand looking coffee maker. After a few minutes of fussing, much noise, steam and no cup of tea he was heard to ask as if in wonder, ‘what am I doing here’ – to which one of his young aides earnestly asked, ‘if this was a literal or philosophical question’. As astute readers I can leave you to make your own minds up – but for me the question neatly summed up the State of British politics’ right now.