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Nurses Who Inspire: Carol Forde-Johnston, MSc, RN, PGDipEd, RNT

Updated: May 10

RESOLVE TO GUIDE

Be patient, it is not a race, and it takes time to find the right field, setting, career, and role sometimes, but you will get there!

We interviewed Carol Forde-Johnston, a Divisional Recruitment and Retention Nurse Lead at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who is responsible for leading nurse recruitment and retention initiatives. Carol is a Registered Nurse Tutor who is passionate about supporting students and registered and unregistered nurses throughout their careers. She is the author of the books, How to Thrive as a Newly Qualified Nurse and How to Prepare for Interviews and Develop Your Career as a Nurse or Midwife. Carol believes all nurses have a right to a high standard of education development and support, to enable them to thrive throughout their careers.

 

Ignite:

Where are you from and what drives your passion to be in nursing?


Carol:

I live in the beautiful University city of Oxford, in England. I originally grew up in the city of Coventry in the middle of England. Coventry is famous as the home of Britain’s car industry, and for Lady Godiva, a formidable campaigner, and an interesting person to look up if you are interested in history! I am passionate about supporting students and staff to become more confident and competent, especially if they are struggling with their education or clinical practice. My greatest joy is helping staff overcome a difficulty and seeing them thrive in their role or on a nursing program. This, in turn, helps to ensure we have knowledgeable, competent, safe, and happy nurses providing patient care.


Ignite:

Can you guide us through the process you traversed to get to where you are today in your career?


Carol:

When I started my career in the 1980s, nursing programs were delivered in Schools of Nursing in the United Kingdom (UK) and it was not a degree profession. There was high unemployment when I qualified and few job opportunities for nurses, which contrasts with the high number of nursing vacancies in the UK today. I began my career as a staff nurse in neurosciences at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, and I worked my way up the career ladder to a Nursing Sister in neurosciences. To help me achieve this goal, I completed a part-time degree at the Royal College of Nursing whilst working full-time. Throughout my career, I have always aligned post-registration education to future roles to support my career development. I knew early on that I wished to pursue a career in nurse education, as I

loved supporting students and staff in our neuroscience unit. I worked as a Clinical Practice

Development Sister in neurosciences for several years, which I loved. During this time, new Lecturer Practitioner roles were being created across Oxford, which were joint appointments between universities and health care institutions. A wonderful Lecturer Practitioner inspired me to go for a future Lecturer Practitioner role and she helped support my development. To achieve this goal, I required an MSc and a Post-Registration Diploma in Education, which I completed over several years, again part-time whilst working in my full-time role.

I spent twenty-two years as a Lecturer Practitioner in Neurosciences at Oxford Brookes University, leading a post-registration MSc course in neurosciences and third-year Adult Nursing degree modules. My education is still not quite finished, as I am currently a second-year PhD in Nursing candidate at Oxford Brookes University. I moved to my current role as Divisional Recruitment and Retention Nurse Lead a few years ago, as it is helpful to be working for a single employer whilst doing my PhD. I can use all the skills I have developed over the years recruiting, supporting, and developing staff to retain them in their role. I have been blessed with wonderful mentors and managers during my career, and I know I would never be where I am now, if I had not received their support and advice along the way. The support that I have received inspires me to support others in the same way, to give something back to our profession, which has given me such joy for the last thirty-five years.


Ignite:

How do you encourage innovative ideas?


Carol:

Within my role, I lead new recruitment and retention projects, and I work with a fantastic team who support creativity and innovative ideas. We use a collaborative, team approach in the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and I always feel supported and encouraged to evaluate new ideas. A positive workplace culture is so important for staff to feel able to innovate and evaluate their ideas. I also support students and staff with their ideas and projects by helping them network with relevant staff, attend courses, or review relevant resources to support their endeavors.


Ignite:

Do you have a mentor?


Carol:

Yes, I have a group of people with a range of different skills who I can go to for support and advice depending on the help I need at the time.


Ignite:

Can you recommend a book or resource for building a particular strength or skill-set that you find valuable?


Carol:

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, more nurses are having to deal with difficult conversations, and I recommend a book from Kathryn Mannix who is a consultant specializing in palliative medicine. Kathryn has written the book, With the End in Mind: How to Live and Die Well, to help individuals become better informed and less afraid about dying. The author recounts stories from the bedsides of patients and shares the experiences that have enabled her to see dying as something we can plan for and manage, rather than something to fear and avoid discussing. Kathryn also has a new book out, Listen: How to Find the Words for Tender Conversations, that aims to help support health care professionals to manage those difficult conversations.


Ignite:

What do you do to challenge your practice?


Carol:

It depends on the situation, but I am always asking others for feedback when I lead projects, teach, or support staff. Junior staff may view me as a senior nurse, but I can make mistakes and develop my practice just as easily as anyone else. The key is talking practice issues through with a supportive and constructive colleague to learn from your experiences and move forward positively.


Ignite:

How do you navigate feeling nervous speaking to groups?


Carol:

Preparation and practice are key! I will research an area or the presentation to increase my

understanding, which increases my confidence, and then practice what I am going to say

beforehand. I am not someone who can just get up and speak with no preparation. I have always had to research and prepare for any talk and this preparation has always helped my performance on the day.


Ignite:

If a nursing student approached you and asked for your advice, and you had just a few moments to engage with them, what would be your best tip?


Carol:

Don’t compare yourself to others. You have your own individual learning needs and you will develop at your own pace. So many students and newly registered nurses compare themselves to others and think that they should know more than they do. Always ask for help if you are struggling, as there is a university and clinical placement team there to support you.


Ignite:

Is there anything else you would like to share?


Carol:

There will be times in your career when you don’t pass a module or are unsuccessful when you apply for a job, but don’t let that failure define you or your career. I failed my nursing finals as a student, yet I have had a fantastic career and I am now doing a PhD at fifty-two. Be patient, it is not a race, and it takes time to find the right field, setting, career, and role sometimes, but you will get there!


 

Connect with Carol

Carol can be reached via Twitter @FordeJohnston


Explore her guest contributions to The Ignite Blog:

Nurse Educators Find New Rhythms Amid Pandemic