10 years ago I had a paper published in the Journal of Nursing Management. The paper was entitled: Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the most improved of all. I re-read it again last week. The paper was a polemical analysis of clinical governance in the NHS. At the time I was a nurse reviewer for what was then called the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) - a precursor to the current Care Quality Commission, and like them perhaps, an organisation that looked at quality improvement through the wrong end of the telescope.
Just before writing the paper I had just undertaken a CHI review; an event that lasted nearly a week and something that demanded enormous preparation, involved very long hours of interviewing, observation, analysis and discussion and was an exhausting experience. Traveling back on the train, I found myself somewhat challenged and doubting the value and validity of what I had been involved in. A week or two later I was having dinner with my friends and colleagues Karen Holland and Gary Rolfe at a conference. Gary had just found out he was be a guest editor for a special edition of the British Journal of Nursing Management.
So when he asked if I would write a paper on a contemporary health service management issue, I jumped at the chance, but insisted it would have to be written in my style. And it was. I think it was during my ‘metaphor’ period, when my writing partner Sue McAndrew and I were into using metaphors and analogy to explore difficult issues. The analogy I used was pantomimes – here is a taste of the papers subheadings: The Emperor's New Clothes (who says he's naked?); Sleeping Beauty (being aroused from slumber?); Snow White (and her seven assorted helpers?); The Three Little Pigs (nobody lives in glasshouses here!); Cinderella’s Missing Shoe (or slipping into something more comfortable?); and Little Red Riding Hood (and the wolf in Grandma’s clothing).
Whilst I would argue that the academic content of the paper was of high quality, use of metaphor in this way was at the time, challenging. That the paper got through unscathed was I think, down to the courage of the journal’s Editor in Chief, just 2 years into her role, Professor Melanie Jasper. Melanie and I both became Head of Schools at the same time. While I became Head of School of Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences at the University of Salford, Melanie became Head of the College of Human and Health Sciences at the University of Swansea. Both Schools are the largest providers of health and social care education in England and Wales.
Melanie, (with Gary Rolfe, and Dawn Freshwater), used her considerable skills and energy to challenge all nurse educators to find ways to enable nurses to improve their skills and knowledge through reflecting on their practice. She led the way with high energy, insightful commentary, and creativity and was always willing to give everyone a voice. Melanie was an outstanding researcher and teacher. Sadly Melanie died last weekend. I, and I'm sure many people, will miss her encouragement, challenge and support.
Whilst for me, the week started with the sad news of Melanie’s untimely and premature death, on Wednesday young Harry was born safe and well. Harry is grandchild no.9. Harry was born at home. It was a planned and prepared for home birth. The Bolton midwives were fantastic. If she had known, I think Melanie would have smiled with contentment at how well today's nurse and midwifery education can deliver great practice (and, of course such adorable little boys).