Anna Kent is a nurse, midwife and Médecins Sans Frontières volunteer. She is a University of Nottingham alumna with a Master of Nursing Science (2003) and a BSc Midwifery (2010).
Anna was awarded an Alumni Laureate Award in December 2014.
Here, she explains the importance of using both skills and judgement throughout a career in nursing, and talks about her experience working for a humanitarian aid organisation.
How has your degree helped you get the most out of your career?
My degree in nursing not only gave me strong clinical skills but also experience in conducting my own research and critically reviewing others' research. I've taken these skills to help people both in the UK and all over the world as a volunteer for Médecins Sans Frontières, a humanitarian aid organisation that provides impartial medical assistance where it's needed most.
What have you found to be rewarding aspects of your role as nurse for a humanitarian aid organisation?
I've had long placements in South Sudan, Haiti and Bangladesh which were challenging but rewarding as it enabled me to practice my belief that all people deserve basic healthcare, regardless of where in the world they happen to have been born. I cared for those who were infected, I taught clinical skills to the wonderful national staff that I worked with and, maybe more importantly, I contributed to research right there in the field. From that research was the creation of new guidance that progressed care for people all over the world.
You've had an exciting and diverse nursing career. What is your current role?
I now work in the NHS as a nurse, a clinical midwife and a specialist midwife for women and their families living with HIV. It is an unusual combination of roles but I'm happy that I found a balance that suits me, and I can say that I really do love my work.
What one thing would you tell all new nurses to do?
Challenge the clinical practice around you if you need to. It is no longer acceptable for us to say "we do this because that is how it has always been done." Ask yourself and others, where is the evidence? Where is the research? It may not always make you very popular, but it is so important in our role of advocating for the best possible care for our patients.
Do you recommend working overseas or in the UK?
Unfortunately there are still humanitarian crises all over the world which need nurses to go and help. If you want to take your skills to go and help overseas, then good for you. Children's nurses, mental health nurses and adult nurses are all needed and I'm evidence that it's completely possible if that's what you want to do. However, if you'd like to stay in the UK to work on our own health challenges, to be a competent nurse in your clinical area, then that is just as important.
What career options are there for ambitious nurses passionate about healthcare?
You can evolve your career to go into practice development, specialist nursing, leadership, management, teaching, research, even politics if you want to! The amazing thing about nursing is that all these are possible and you can find something that excites you.
What is the best piece of advice anyone has given you?
Most important of all is the advice my granny gave to me when I first started my training; that is, please be kind. Your patients are vulnerable and they deserve your compassion. That's regardless of the clinical area you're in or where in the world you choose to nurse.
Any final advice?
My final advice is when you're at work, take your breaks! Try to smile when you go into handover. Support your colleagues - we are all on the same side. Ask for help and take supervision when you need it, and sometimes when you don't!