Inspiring People: Christine Dyson #NHS70
On 5th July 2018, the NHS turned 70. At Real Public Sector, we’re proud to have worked with so many skilled people who’ve played a part in making the institution what it is today.
To celebrate the 70th birthday, we spoke with some of the inspiring people we’ve partnered with over the years to discover how the work they do with the NHS every day offers them real purpose.
Christine is an Interim Designated Nurse Safeguarding Adults, who works with the NHS on a contract basis. After a colourful career working in the NHS, Christine started working with Real Public Sector five years ago. This is her story, in her own words…
How I became involved in the NHS
I ended up working in the NHS almost by accident; it was 40 years ago when I applied for a job in the maternity unit and never received a reply. Afterwards, somebody suggested working in mental health, and initially I thought this wasn’t for me. However, after thinking about it a little more, I ended up applying for a healthcare assistant role, and from there was offered a place on the training programme.
I honestly had no idea what I would be getting myself in for, and when I arrived on my first day, I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy it. I was on a female long stay ward with 70 patients, doing a 12 hour shift, and I just felt overwhelmed and out of my depth. When I walked into the ward, I recognised the Ward Sister from when I was a young girl. She took me aside and advised me to wait a few weeks before I made any rash decisions. I don’t know if it was because I knew her from the past, but after speaking to her I felt encouraged.
Anyway, I went back the next day, started to get to grips with everything and I absolutely loved it; I loved the patients, I loved that no day was ever the same, and more than anything, I loved learning. I learned so much from mental health patients that I don’t think you’d get from working with patients in a general hospital. They challenged me and were extremely appreciative of the work I was doing. I soon started my training and to this day I’m still in touch with some of the girls I trained with.
My career highlights
As soon as I became qualified and got my uniform, I was in charge of my ward. I feel like within this career you go through a continuous cycle of being an expert at something one day, and a novice at something else the next; that’s very refreshing. After working in Chester for 15 years, my husband, who was a surveyor at the time, came home one day and decided that he needed a change. I think he was inspired by my stories and he told me that he couldn’t talk about the work he did in the same way as me, so we decided to make a change. In 1992 we moved to London so that he could begin training as a mental health nurse. For me, that’s the moment when I started to view nursing as a career, and not just a job.
Working in London, obviously the opportunities are different to working in the provinces, and my eyes were opened to what was available. At this point, I started working in a number of different positions, mostly on roles that I needed to set up from scratch. Reports would often come out that would mean organisations had a requirement for a professional to take the lead on a specific task. For example, after the incident with Beverley Allit, trusts needed someone to manage pre-registered education, and so I took on this role. I linked up with various people throughout my career, at one point I was working across 5 universities and 7 London boroughs, which was the first time I’d come off the wards to work in a role that wasn’t directly clinically based – I have to say, that was quite a challenge.
Afterwards, I began working with the Royal College of Nursing, and I ended up being elected as the London Regional Reputation for Practice, and that was very daunting! I had to stand for election, which meant that my manifesto was distributed across the whole nursing workforce. That was exciting but I felt very exposed as you really need to think about what it is you’re putting out there, and people are either going to vote for you, or they’re not. Thankfully for me, it worked out!
Other key highlights included being appointed as one of the first modern matrons, working with the Chief Executive Forums, which involved setting up the National Education Conference at the Royal College of London. It got to the point where I wasn’t really applying for jobs, I was asked to come in and take on projects that would drive change. One of the biggest things I ended up doing was working as a Service Lead for the National Specialist Service, which was very interesting. I was dealing with mental health patients with learning disabilities and ended up going all over the country to assess people. Before I retired I established the trust’s safeguarding leads role developing policies and frameworks for the safeguarding adults role.
It was in 2010 that I formally retired, but it certainly wasn’t the end of my journey with the NHS! I was then invited to run a hospital in Hampshire as the Head of Quality and Nursing and ended up doing that for 2 years. After that, I had a bit of a break and, in quite a change of direction, I actually ended up working with an ex-colleague as the director of community services and one of the services was a facial aesthetics service providing botox and fillers!
I think I can honestly say that over the past 40 years, it’s very rare that I would sit at my desk and say I was bored. And that’s quite something. You just can’t be bored as there’s so many opportunities; there’s always been so much diversity throughout my role.
Working with Real Public Sector
5 years ago, my friend and I were having a conversation and she asked why I didn’t do interim work. This led to a bit of a heated debate about recruitment and job boards, and so I decided to upload my CV; I couldn’t believe the response I got. It was from there that Real got in touch, and I ended up travelling to Waterloo to meet Conor. I can’t really say I had any expectations, I just wanted to see what would happen. But since then, I haven’t had one day out of work.
Working with Real, and specifically with Conor, has honestly been a seamless process. I think it’s really important to find someone you can trust, and Conor has always been very professional; he’s always on hand to sort any situations, and I’ve never feel pressured to take any positions that aren’t right for me. He’s extremely supportive and that honestly makes all the difference. We have a good relationship and he understands me.
What the NHS means to me
Working in healthcare, the emotional attachment never fully goes away. And I’ve always said that if I ever do stop feeling humbled by the work I do, it’s time for me to stop. The NHS has been my life; I have so many family members who’ve been doctors and nurses, and together we’ve amassed quite a wealth of experience. My mother in law actually trained in healthcare in 1946, before the NHS was even established. It’s an incredible service that from the outside seems so complex, but when you’re working in it, it’s so simple.
On a personal level, I’ve really thrived on the humour of the people I work with. My career has been extraordinarily challenging at times; you’re working in extreme situations with people going through some of the most difficult things you can ever imagine experiencing. It may sound like a cliché but the NHS is your family; you go through things that truly bond you. Working across so many different hospitals, you quickly learn how to manage different environments and I feel that I can now go into any situation and hit the ground running.
Thank you to the NHS
We celebrated the NHS' 70th birthday by creating a short video to thank everyone within the NHS. You can view the video below...
The NHS offers a career with purpose, offering talented professionals the opportunity to use their skills to make a real difference. If you want to learn more about the inspiring roles we have on offer, get in touch with one of our dedicated consultants today.