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What it takes to get to the top in Nursing

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Mary O’Brien, Director of Nursing, Sports Surgery Clinic Dublin, explains how holding your hand up when a new opportunity presents itself is key to success. 

Tell us about your career journey to date..

My career path began in 1972 as a student nurse in one of the main trauma Hospitals in Dublin. After qualifying in 1975, I went on to the Coombe Hospital and did Midwifery until 1976. I returned to the original Hospital where I had trained and signed up for a Theatre course, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I remained on the staff there for ten years.

In 1985 I took a position as a staff nurse at the National Orthopedic Hospital and progressed over the years from CNM 1 (clinical nurse manager) to CNM 11, eventually becoming Theatre Manager at the Hospital where I remained for  21 years.

In 2004 I was asked for my input into a new Private Hospital in Santry, Dublin; I agreed as I saw this as a huge challenge and a further stepping stone in my career. I have been a Director of Nursing now since 2007 and this role has brought many changes and challenges over the years.

 

What qualities does someone need to work in your industry?

There are many qualities that are required to make a good nurse. A career as a nurse can certainly offer a sense of personal satisfaction but there are also the challenges of continuous education and training, keeping abreast of technology and having the drive to forge a career pathway.

Some of the key qualities that I can point to though are:

Empathy, compassion, respect, communication skills, flexibility, an ability to remain calm under pressure and a laser-like attention to detail.

 

Nursing education has such a crucial role to play; nurses today need to be highly trained and well educated to enable them to make complex decisions in an often pressurised environment.

 

There is a strong focus on care and compassion in your industry – do people generally have those attributes ingrained or can they be learned?

There is a saying ‘born to be a nurse’ and it may be said of some nurses but generally if someone has the qualities I mentioned above then they can certainly succeed in this profession.

A sharp and critical mind is needed to excel in the nursing field. Nurses must be able to assess a situation and make critical decisions on the spot. Nursing education has such a crucial role to play; nurses today need to be highly trained and well educated to enable them to make complex decisions in an often pressurised environment.

 

What are the skills or actions that helped you to reach Director Level in Nursing?

I believe I have good communication and interpersonal skills and that has helped me along the way. Putting the time into developing my staff, and most of all valuing the benefits of working together as a team has been key. My history of varied clinical experiences and the courses that I have put myself forward for over the years have certainly helped.

I believe my clinical leadership encourages patient safety, professional accountability and the delivery of best practice, all of which are imperative at this level.

 

The commitment needed to meet the challenges of an evolving healthcare system is a big one but if an opportunity arises do not be afraid to take on the challenge. Be positive and you will succeed.

 

Was there a key turning point in your career that you can attribute to your success?

Yes, the decision to lend my expertise to the development of the Private Hospital was a key turning point in getting to the position I am currently in. The work was a huge challenge at the time and I see the rewards today of all the time and effort that I put into it. Recruiting and maintaining staff in all areas, developing policies and procedures, and just being part of a very successful team have all contributed the journey.

 

What advice would you give to someone looking for that next step up in Nursing, how can they get noticed?

Nursing has changed dramatically over the years, the advancements made in medicine and nursing, have been immense, from technology to research to education to changes in healthcare policies.

I encourage all of my staff to continue their education, there are so many different specialties for them to choose from – Theatre, ICU, Midwifery, Paediatric to name a few. The commitment needed to meet the challenges of an evolving healthcare system is a big one but if an opportunity arises do not be afraid to take on the challenge. Be positive and you will succeed.

 

Mary’s tips for motivating herself and her team on tough days:

•Set clear short term goals, both for yourself & the team

•Stay focused

•Stay positive

•Don’t forget work/life balance – it’s too important!

•Delegate tasks & give people responsibility – it helps them to learn

•Be a good listener

•Empower staff to stand over their own decisions

•Offer the opportunity for self development

•Foster collaboration within the team

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