Sunday, 31 May 2015

Elephants, a portfolio of papers, and no Damsons for me last week

It is said that elephants have the longest gestation period of all mammals. An elephants pregnancy lasts for more than 18 months. The average gestation period of an elephant is about 640- 660 days (about 95 weeks) Women, on the other hand usually have a pregnancy lasting an average of 280 days (about 40 weeks). I mention these facts only because last week featured paper problems. I don’t mean newspaper problems or even meeting paper problems, although last week’s Trust Board meeting had a huge number of papers to get through.

I am referring to those papers that as academics we write and try to get published. For academics, publishing our work is the life blood of intellectual credibility, and it can enhance our reputation, and increase the reach and extent of our influence. But writing papers is not something that can always be achieved quickly. Last week I spent some time revising a paper first submitted for consideration in September last year. It was based on data collected in late 2013. This was the third, and hopefully the last revision before publication.

More often than not I write with others. On this occasion it was a paper written with colleagues I hadn't written with before, and that can add to the time taken to get a paper published. Understandably it can also be difficult to see your work being criticised by unknown reviewers, particularly when it has taken some time to do the research and then write the paper. However, I also had a different paper that I've co-authored come back from the publishers last week. It is now almost ready to be published, just the copy right forms to sign, and last week another couple of colleagues and I got to the first draft stage of a new papers development. This is always a good place to be.

Rather belatedly, I also opened up a Google Scholar account last week. This is a brilliant service that I should have used a long time before. It lists all my publications and interestingly, shows how many times each paper has been cited by other authors as they have referenced my work in their own papers. The paper that has been cited the most was written in 2002, and my best year for citations since 1999 was 2014.  I appear to have an i10-index rating of 29, which means 29 of my papers have been cited at least 10 times by other authors.

I am increasingly fascinated by the way in which our words can travel. I have had 111,168 views of my blogs, and by far the largest readership is to be found in the US, then the UK, with the 3rd largest readership being Germany. Given the idiosyncratic nature of my musings, I find this quite remarkable. Last week I gained 28 new followers on Twitter, had 248 mentions and a 28,000 mention reach.  What the possible impact of all of this information flow might be is unknown to me.

Trying to capture the impact of our work as academics was the subject of our School professoriate meeting last Thursday. The professoriate form the basis of our School Academic Leadership Group, bringing together all our Professors and Readers, and its task is to support, drive and monitor the School’s research activities. The group meets monthly and I relish the chance to attend as I can take my Head of School hat off for an afternoon and enjoy being a professor once more. Once every 3 months the group ends the meeting with a meal and drinks, usually at Damsons, a Media City UK restaurant close by. And so it was last Thursday. However, whilst the menu had at long last changed, there was nothing there that took my fancy. So it was an early night, a glass of a rather super Shriaz and a great frittata with fresh salad leaves prepared in my own kitchen. Unlike writing a really good paper, a good frittata is a spur-of–the-moment creation, but just as satisfying!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Why do helicopters eat their young and other tales of nurse education

The wonderful blogger Paul Millard, pilot, motorbike enthusiast and general nurse, working in the US wrote a blog back in 2012 that asked the question as to 'why do nurses eat their young'. Unlike bears, lions, bottlenose dolphins and rabbits who will sometimes eat their young for understandable reproductive and survivability reasons, the term in nursing refers most frequently to the way some qualified nurses treat their student nurses and the newly qualified nurse – which can be poorly and often without compassion.

It is also a term used to suggest that nurses themselves can do the most damage to their profession through publicly undermining the confidence society might have in them.  Despite the evidence clearly supporting the fact that higher numbers of nurses with a degree have reduced by 7%, the risk of death following surgery, in recent years much media focus has coalesced around the notion of nurses being 'too posh to wash'. This proposition argues that since nurse education adopted an all graduate approach to the preparation of nurses, today's nurses don't want to get involved with any element of basic care. Despite a number of high profile reviews and reports that said there was no evidence of this, the myth has persisted.

The comprehensive 'Too Posh to Wash' report produced by the excellent 2020Health is a great example of the high quality, evidence based approach to challenging such notions. 2020health is an independent think tank, whose aim is to improve the health of individuals, and create the conditions for a health society, through research, evaluation and campaigning and relationships.  Published in 2013, the report is still a relevant and important read. Unlike, I would suggest, the opinion piece posted on the RCNi web site (part of the Royal College of Nursing Group) last week by one Tony Stein.

Tony works for Health Care Management Solutions (HCMS). He is one of the 5 senior team, 3 of which, including Tony are accountants. It’s difficult to tell from their web site as to whether any of the senior team are nurses or nurse educationalists. HCMS provide Care Home providers, owners and investors with 'one-stop' solutions to the care home sector.

He set out to explore the current nursing shortages being experienced by many NHS Trust's. The account appeared to be ill informed and not particularly evidence based. One reading of his argument might be that following the decision to make the threshold for nurse registration a graduate education, those who might have a genuine desire to become a nurse but who may not have been able to meet the academic requirements, particularly mature applicants, were unnecessarily excluded from the opportunity to train, and this has had a negataive impact on the numbers of nurses in the workforce.

Clearly the evidence refutes this. Those nurses graduating this year are those that started their education programmes back in 2012. In England, the number of commissioned student nurse places has steadily fallen between the years of 2004 – 2012. It’s therefore perhaps not surprising that there is a current shortage of nurses entering the workforce. Whether they have a degree or not is not particularly relevant. In our School we have high rates of retention, currently the best in the University, and high levels of newly qualified nurses entering the local health economy. Of course the local health care economy includes care homes, who currently do not contribute to the cost of educating the nurses they employ.

Despite Tony Steins appearing to advocate a return to a previous era of two tier nursing qualifications to resolve the present workforce shortage, there are no quick fixes to the current situation. Having spent two days last week with 120 colleagues from across the 4 nations of the UK, all of whom were intent on contributing to improving the education of health care professions in order to create the best possible future workforce, I found the RCNi and Tony Stein’s contribution to the wider debate really unhelpful and unnecessary. 

Maybe both could learn something from Paul Millard. He was working in an Emergency Care Department when he overheard a conversation between a doctor assessing a patient with an alcohol problem to see if he was confabulating. The doctor asked the question, 'why do helicopters eat their young?' – the patient apparently confidently responded that he couldn't answer due to the issue being a matter of national security – to  answer the questions would incur the death penalty. The patient continued in this vein for a few minutes before saying 'besides, they’re more tender when they are young'

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Now We Are 6[0] (apologies to A A Milne)

Last Friday I was 60. It was a glorious day, spent with my family. I got up late, the sun shone, the bubbles flowed, gifts were exchanged and preparations were made for the bit of a do yesterday – which ended just 4 hours ago. Many thanks to all my friends and family who came, and many thanks for all the wonderful gifts and best wishes sent. So this morning I am just a little tired, but its that kind of tiredness that leaves you with a smile on your face. And I have much to smile about. Laying here in bed thinking about what to write, I have a million memories rushing through my mind, images and thoughts of some of what the last 60 years has involved.

I come from a large family and have an increasingly large family of my own now. My Mum and Dad are still alive and kicking, and I am the eldest of 7 children. I have 5 children and 9 grandchildren, and a wonderful wife - who it is said, probably has the patience of Job when it comes to sharing a life with me. But thanks for supporting me through thick and thin. 

I've been fortunate enough to have been in employment since I was 16 years old, working first in food retail, before undertaking my nurse training in the 1970s. I was once, and very briefly a blacksmith, before returning to health care. Now I have the best job I have ever had. I get to work with a fantastic team of colleagues who inspire me and I am sure, many of our students each and every day. They are a great group of people to know and work with.

I have kept donkeys, peafowl, ducks, Jacob Sheep, and Vietnamese pot bellied pigs, made cheese from my own goat herd, and raised calves by hand. I have bred finches and looked after Billy the parrot for the last 20 years. Cello, an Australian Labradoddle, is a constant companion. And then there are the chickens. I have kept chickens for the last 40 years. I have hypnotised them, bred them for show, the table and egg production. Right now, because of the travel between Manchester and the House in Scotland, sadly the chicken pen stands empty.

However, leaving live chickens to one side for a moment I think I have the world’s largest and most varied chicken collection – some 6000 different examples, including a black cockerel, tattooed on my right shoulder. I will contact the Guinness Book of Records one day and seek confirmation that my collection IS the biggest and most diverse in the world.

I have also enjoyed walking, doing the Coast to Coast walk in my 50th birthday week, walking around the Isle of Man, the Isle of White and walked the 4 peaks of Scarfell, Scarfell Pike, Helvellyn and Skiddaw in 24 hours. I have walked along Hadrian’s Wall, and the Great Wall of China. I've seen the Berlin wall come down and the Israeli West Bank Wall go up. I've sent texts from the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, and the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York before they were destroyed in 2001.

I'm on my 4th passport and have travelled the world visiting China, Latvia, Russia, US, Switzland, Nigeria, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Singapore, France, South Africa, Romania, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, Holland, Belgium, Hong Kong, Spain, India, Portugal, Croatia, Bulgaria, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Canada, Kenya, Slovakia, Pakistan, Slovenia, Hungry and Lithuania - these days the journey I like the best is the one that takes me back to the House in Scotland.

My favourite car was always the Morris Minor, that is until I bought my first Jaguar. My favourite colour has, for many years been black, but more recently I have started buying and wearing brightly coloured clogs. I've grown my own vegetables all my life and been a vegetarian for most of my life. I didn't own a mobile phone until 2000, but now really enjoy using social media, and this blog is the 300th posting. And last Friday I had my first piece published for the Conversation. Since 2000 I've published 75 peer reviewed papers, presented 86 conference papers, 16 non-peer reviewed papers and co-edited 2 books. 

I have met many people over the years, and take this opportunity to thank all the folks I have encountered along the way, some of whom are no longer with us,. I thank them for their generous support, and help, wisdom and humour. I've enjoyed the first 60 years and I'm absolutely looking forward to the next 60 years. And Wendy don't worry, they wont be all be spent at Salford, retirement beckons, now we are 60

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Kiss and Chips – An Almost Perfect End to a People Centred Week

It was a big week. Momentous in many ways, and humbling in others. Last Friday was the Anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), this year marking 70 years since the end of the second world war in Europe. On May 8th 1945, 6 years of fighting were brought to a close. The then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill (Conservative) declared a public holiday and thousands of people across the UK came together to celebrate. In the excitement of the celebrations, the kiss of a family member, loved one or even a stranger became the symbol of the VE Day celebrations – something renewed by the Royal British Legion this year.

They are asking people to remember the past while looking to the future through a UK wide celebration called #KissForVEDay. All that is required to take part is share a photo of yourself kissing a partner, friend or family member on social media using the hashtag above to do so. It can be a kiss on the lips, finger tips, the top of someone's head or it can be simply blowing someone a kiss. Not unsurprisingly, there wasn't much kissing going on last Friday at the service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall. Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative), Ed Miliband (Labour), and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat) were there to each lay a wreath in honour and remembrance of all those who died so we could enjoy the freedom we have today.

And possibly the reason Ed and Nick were looking so glum was that the great British public had exercised their freedom and returned David Cameron and the Conservatives for another 5 years in the general election held the day before. David Cameron became the first Prime Minister since 1990 to be re-elected with an increased popular vote share, and the only Prime Minister other than Margaret Thatcher to be re- elected with a greater number of seats after serving a full term. Ed, Nick and Nigel Farage (UKIP) all resigned after the ceremony, having led their respective parties to defeat. The ceremony gave me the best image of the week – a photo showing David Cameron’s juxtaposition with Nicola Sturgeon (SNP).

Nicola Sturgeon led a stunning campaign which saw the SNP win 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland. Leaving aside that the House in Scotland is now located in an almost one party State, this victory reflected the people power and voice unleashed by the independence vote earlier in the year. Devolution and independence was a theme in a couple of the meetings I took part in last week. Tuesday I was in Bury with 90 other people exploring how to make patient safety visible.The 90 people were drawn from the Boards of NHS Acute Trust, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), Local Authorities and Mental Health Trusts from across Greater Manchester and beyond.

For one of the sessions, I shared the stage with my wonderful colleague Dr Umesh Prabhu, which for me was a real privilege. It was a very informative and productive, albeit it was a long, long day. However it did make me think of the difficulties in taking the 'Devo Manc' initiative forward.  Devo Manc will see some £6Bn worth of health care funding being given over to a group made of Councils, Local Authorities, and CCG, offering the opportunity to transform the way in which health and social care can become more integrated and person centred. What our role as educationalists might be is as yet unclear, something reinforced by a meeting I hosted for the Local Educational & Training Board North (LETB) on Friday.

This was a meeting where the North LETB Director (Neil McLauchlan) and Chair (Sally Cheshire) came to see our facilities (and as was expected, the simulation suites were a hit) and to discuss what the shape of future education and how we prepare the future workforce might look like. It was a lively and creative way to spend 4 hours, but again very productive in terms of recognition of colleagues achievements (and there are many) and future possibilities.

What the future might look like was also the theme of my Thursday evening, spent with our new VC, Register and assorted other colleagues and students. I spent the evening in the Council Chamber where a map of our campus, which had been printed out on a floor covering, and laid out across the whole floor, provided the grounded (literally) anchor for our explorations. I have to say I really enjoyed the opportunity to think beyond the constraints of budgets and sensibilities and wonder out aloud with other's as to what our campus, buildings and could look like. 

Anyway, all these evenings out meant that by the time I got to Friday I was really hungry and in need of some decent food. Thankfully, last Friday was the Annual Village Dinner. Up here in Scotland for all kinds of political and economic reasons we were asked to keep the dinners location a secret, but as the big white shiny coach whisked 50 of us on our way, I did see a sign for Southerness.  It was a wonderful night of good food, close company, communal singing (which included the 8 min version of American Pie) and plenty of opportunities to send in photos for the #KissForVEDay project. Sadly, for the world, my phone was left plugged in, charging a flat battery, back in the lounge, so there are no photos to see... 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Making a Difference in a Week of Carers, Conferences, Chancellors and Christenings

It was a bad week for Twitter last week. The social media company saw a massive 31% drop in their share price (down to £24.44 a share on Friday) as news that their revenues were down by $20m reached the market. On top of which the numbers of people using twitter each month had fallen from 243m to 241.6 users. I felt a little guilty as I didn't really get to use my Twitter account until the end of the week, not that I am saying my meagre use would have made much of a difference! However, colleagues in the School continued to make a difference through their use of social media.

The 38th Student, Service Users and Carers Conference was once again a huge success. Many thanks to all my colleagues who facilitated the day. The feedback captured on Twitter revealed the value of exposing all our students very early on in their studies with us to the personal accounts of patients and carers experiences of health and social care services. Likewise, colleagues used social media to raise awareness of the struggles of the Manchester South Central Foodbank, whose supplies were running low.

The MSCFoodbank is one of the 400 food banks run by the Trussell Trust network, who in collaboration with local churches and organisations provide emergency food to those in need. Last year that was some 913,138 people. Reading my Twitter timeline at the end of the week, I could see that many of my colleagues had already made donations and I am sure many more will too in the days to come. You can find out more about their work here. Of course it’s sad that in a modern day Britain so many people have the need to use food banks – that’s the closest I can get to making a political statement during this period of purdah.

I was faced with the same problem on Thursday. I had been asked to deliver a key note paper to the Future of Mental Health Care conference on what the political priority agenda for mental health services in the UK might look like. It was a slightly difficult path to tread in developing a nonpartisan analysis of the main political parties record and plans for mental health services. Again the Twitter feedback appeared to suggest that the paper was well received. And I certainly enjoyed the event. 

In terms of enjoyable events last week, I was also privileged to be part of the installation of our 6th Chancellor. The ceremony was held in the magnificent Peel Hall, and colleagues from across the University, our partner organisations and alumni were invited. Our new Chancellor is Jackie Kay, the renowned Scottish poet, whose work tackles a range of often taboo issues. The ceremony was full of music, laughter, dancing and beautiful words, some of the latter coming from the writer Jeanette Winterson and the irrepressible  Salford Mayor, Ian Stewart.

Jackie Kays appointment means our senior team is led by a great team of women. Our Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Chair of Council, and three of our Heads of School are all posts held by women. They are all strong women and such a combination is almost unheard of in the University sector. Jackie is joining a team of superb leaders and the future of our University feels like it’s in very safe hands. Perhaps in contrast to the University of Manchester, who are also in the process of appointing a Chancellor – favourite for the post is someone called Peter Mandleson – no comment. 

Up early today as today Jack and Harry’s get christened. Jack and Harry are 2 of what are 9 wonderful grandchildren! Of course this means we will be having a bit of a 'family do' with family and friends all coming to share in the celebrations. Jack and Harry go to Church every Sunday, and appear to really enjoy the children friendly services. Their christening service will be conducted by a female vicar, which given the events of last week, seems entirely appropriate.