Nursing and healthcare have been the driving force of my career ever since I trained as a nurse in the late 1970s. My first degree was a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Newnham College, University of Cambridge. I then qualified as a Registered General Nurse at the Princess Alexandra School of Nursing, The London Hospital, England, and worked there as a staff nurse. I began writing for nursing magazines as a way of encouraging debate and change, and then trained and worked as a journalist.
Later I gained an MSc in sociology with special reference to medicine from Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London. My dissertation caused a bit of a stir, and was written up in ‘The New Nursing: empowering patients or empowering nurses?’ in Robinson J, Gray A and Elkan R (eds), Policy Issues in Nursing, Open University Press, Milton Keynes, 1992.
I am Writer in Residence and visiting professor at Kingston University and St George's, University of London. I was previously visiting professor at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, King's College London, and at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sheffield. I am a fellow of the Joanna Briggs Institute for Evidence-based Care, University of Adelaide, Australia, and a research associate at the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU), University of Cambridge.
Nursing and healthcare development in the UK is an important strand of my work. My policy work includes the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England, 2009-2010, and the Willis commission on nursing education, 2012. As director of the Nursing Developments Programme at the King's Fund, London, 1988 – 1991, I led the national roll-out of practice-based projects that focused on supporting front-line staff to deliver patient-centred care.
I’ve also worked extensively overseas. I served as Chief Scientist for Nursing at WHO Headquarters, Geneva, in 2004. As Regional Adviser, Nursing and Midwifery, at the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, 1991 – 1995, I supported nursing leaders in 50 countries and helped the revival of nursing and midwifery in former Communist bloc countries. I continue my consultancy for WHO and other international health agencies, and am a policy advisor to the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health.