Back to basics at Oxford

By Roger Watson | 04/10/2017

On keeping the important things important.

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VIRGIN TRAINS EAST COAST, somewhere between London and Hull—Looking ahead, I have seven weeks in the UK, a record in recent years. Since the second week of January, when this year’s travelling began, I have not been home for more than a week.

Roger WatsonI have just departed from the gleaming spires of Oxford and the RCN International Nursing Research Conference and Exhibition 2017. Well attended, there were several hundred delegates representing many countries, and the quality of papers and keynotes was high. With few exceptions, I have attended this conference since I was a staff nurse in 1988.

These days I attend in my capacity as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Advanced Nursing. The conference has grown, my colleagues have grown older, and it remains the main scientific conference for nursing in the United Kingdom. In pursuit of accommodation close to the venue, I chose Magdalen College (pronounced “modlin”) and was impressed by how cheap it was. Then I found out why. With mental images of a stately room overlooking the famous deer park or the splendid chapel, I was assigned to an “out house” quite a long way from the main college with no en suite facilities—a proper student dorm or hall of residence as we would call them. It was like being back in my junior officer training with the army. But, in fact, it was very pleasant and it led to some great anecdotes over dinner with other “inmates.” Good for the soul, I think. A perfect antidote to the business lounges and hotels I normally frequent.

Memory lane
In the two weeks since my visit to Turkey, I have been in London and Edinburgh, where I delivered sessions on writing for publication to staff members and students at London South Bank University and The University of Edinburgh. In a previous life at The University of Edinburgh, I was senior warden with responsibility for 3,500 students in university accommodation. The building where I gave my session at Edinburgh was the location of my office and, 19 years later, I could still see the mark on the door where the varnished and gold-lettered “Senior Warden” sign had been located before being unscrewed by my secretary and given to me as a present. I am not sure how my successor’s presence was indicated after my departure, but the sign now hangs in the summer house that is located in our back garden (“yard” for North Americans). The building is now called St Leonard’s Hall, but it may interest you to know that it was originally a girls’ school called St Trinnean’s and was, in fact, where the original St Trinian’s stories was based.

Publish or perish
So far, this has been a productive year with four refereed articles published, two under revision and, of course, the usual rejections. A career motto has been to make each rejection the start of the next submission, so the search for alternative destinations for the rejections is underway. The immense satisfaction of publishing anything and seeing my name in print has never waned since my first article in Nursing Times in 1984.

Philip DarbyshireReturning to the Royal College of Nursing International Research Conference, Philip Darbyshire, PhD, RN, reminded us how publishing an article is the beginning of a process and not the end. To a packed fringe session, he gave a challenging session on self-promotion of your profile and work. We must, he said, get over the feeling that confidence in what you are good at and telling people about is arrogance.

In fact, it is essential to share what we accomplish. If we have a skill or have discovered something useful, we have a moral duty to promote it, and social media are the best way to do it. Challenged by some who claimed they had no time, were too busy, and already worked 12 hours a day, leaving no time for social media, he exhorted them to do an hour less of something unproductive. He asked how many meetings they attended were unnecessary and how often they sat in their offices waiting to see students who did not need to see them.

I have far less of my academic career left than has gone before and, as that time shortens, I want to see how much less I can do of some trivial things to help me achieve more of the important things. I left Oxford with many invitations pending, some obvious avenues for research collaboration, and new contacts to cultivate. My priority will be to prioritise these opportunities.

Roger Watson, PhD, RN, FRCP Edin, FRCN, FAAN, professor of nursing at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom and a frequent visitor to Australia and China, where he has visiting positions, is editor-in-chief of Journal of Advanced Nursing and editor of Nursing Open. Click here to access Blogger-resident entries posted before 2017 in Watson’s blog “Hanging smart.” 

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