This month’s spotlight is trained on senior lecturer and current Head of Nursing Studies, Sheila Rodgers.
For six decades, Edinburgh has been at the centre of an international movement to raise the status and professionalism of nursing, beginning with the introduction of the first Nurse Teaching Unit at a British university in 1956.
A year of celebrations is now underway to mark 60 years of nursing education at Edinburgh and as part of this we spoke to current Head of Nursing Studies, Sheila Rodgers about her career, current role and aspirations for the future.
Shelia began in nursing aged 17 at what is now Leeds Beckett University, then Leeds Polytechnic, where she learnt
about life, nursing and even how to pith a frog. It was during this time that she was first asked why she needed a degree to become a nurse.
I took the BSc (Hons) programme and like many degree nurses at the time, was seen as rather odd. I was often questioned why nurses needed a degree to nurse and this has sadly remained an eternal question that undergraduate nurses still get asked today.
Why things happen
Shelia started her career in Leeds before moving to Manchester and splitting her time 50/50 between research nurse and ward sister in care of older people. The research side of the experience and, a
passion for knowing why something happened and not just that it did, led to a Masters by Research at the University of Manchester.
It was during this period that Sheila was inspired by the
passion and compassion of Baroness MacFarlane, the first Chair of Nursing at an English university, and Karen Luker, currently QNI Professor of Community Nursing at Manchester University.
Challenge and question
Following this degree, Shelia returned to clinical practice and held further ward sister posts in haematology and latterly in surgical high dependency. Keen to develop a much more person centred approach to care, she introduced ‘Primary Nursing’ as a different way of organising care at the time.
Putting the patient at the heart of the organisation is still central to Shelia’s thinking and she continues to work to encourage nurses to challenge and question what they do for patients. She does this as Head of Nursing Studies but also through an honorary role with NHS Lothian as a Nurse Consultant.
Nursing Studies has been a partner with NHS Lothian in developing Clinical Academic Careers for nurses and I would like to see this expand and develop still further to enable the development of nursing practice. It would be fantastic to see Professors of Nursing directly involved with clinical staff and patients as part of their remit.
In 1990 it was time for a change. Academic and research work once again beckoned and names such as Kath Melia and Annie Altschul drew Shelia to Edinburgh’s Department of Nursing Studies where she completed her PhD, and where she has worked ever since.
During her time at Edinburgh Shelia has worked with
some amazing students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. Initially unwilling to pick out just one, she, when pressed, highlighted PhD student Juan Du from China who studied health promotion and the role of hospital nurses in it.
Juan came from China to study and demonstrated the most amazing persistence to get her PhD finished. It is often so challenging for students who come from another country, on their own to study in a second language.
As part of our spotlight feature we also ask staff to share a secret or something not widely known to colleagues, students and friends. With Dr Sheila Rodgers it is all about transferable skills.
In critical care environments nurses work with machines and principles of circulation every day and so when faced with a faulty washing machine for the third time Shelia was compelled to put her skills to the test.
I managed to fix the washing machine and save myself a tidy sum of money too! Sadly, we won’t be offering plumbing as part of the critical care course this year though.
Find out more about 60th anniversary celebrations by visiting the Nursing Studies website. Events include the Royal College of Nursing International Nursing Research Conference in April, plus the Elsie Stephenson memorial lecture and Leaps in the Dark alumni conference in November.