"Why you should become involved in more than the “24/7 of the day job"" - An opinion piece by Alan Williams, Registered Nurse

My interest in becoming a nurse started in the early 1980s. I was working as a nursing assistant in a mental health hospital over summer whilst studying for a degree in Accountancy. I soon realised a life of numbers was not for me! After completing my degree, I  began nurse education in Whitechapel, East London on a four-year adult and mental health nursing programme and in 1988 registered as a nurse (adult and mental health); an RGN and RMN in “old money”.

As a registered nurse you have the knowledge, skill and opportunity to influence policy and practice. However, I'm not sure we all realise that  at the start of our careers – or even later on.

 Wherever you work in nursing the day-to-day operational aspects are supported by organisational, national and international policy guiding or practice. My area of expertise is in resuscitation and resuscitation education, particularly relevant as last year the Resuscitation Council UK celebrated its 40th anniversary. The Resuscitation Council UK has been of huge value throughout my clinical and higher education career; by involving yourself in an organisation central to your specialty, you can shape and influence what future practice looks like.

I focussed on emergency care and resuscitation education in the Midlands. I completed a Resuscitation Council UK Advanced Life Support (ALS) course in 1994 where I was recommended as an Instructor and this is where the fun really started. I completed various nationally accredited life support courses, and with my interest in education participated in the Generic Instructor Course. I also had the privilege of acting as a Regional Representative for the ALS course contributing to the provision of excellent resuscitation education.

In 2006 I moved from the NHS to the University of Nottingham where I was able to consolidate my teaching experience, became a Fellow of Advance HE and NMC Teacher. Whilst my teaching and other responsibilities continued, I commenced a professional doctorate part-time, investigating how students and tutors design web-based resuscitation learning. I can't say it was all “plain sailing” throughout the doctoral programme, though graduating in 2018 was one of my proudest moments.

I was appointed to lead online nursing and health programmes at the University of Derby in 2019, where I’m now programme leader for the professional doctorate in the College.

With my interest in technology and learning I am a member of the Association for Learning Technology and contributed to organising their annual conference in 2019 and 2022. It was because of these achievements that I applied for the vacancy on the Resuscitation Council UK Executive Committee and in November 2021 appointed for a three-year term. Being appointed to this role has enabled me to contribute to and help shape resuscitation policy and education in the UK; something that individuals decades ago did that enabled and facilitated my career. Perhaps there is an element of “giving something back”?

So, what's my main message? Well, when I commenced and completed my nursing education over three decades ago, I didn't really have any plan how my career would progress or what it would look like.

Whilst it's not possible to predict the future, you can shape your future. Having a plan will provide a direction, whether this continues the way you originally envisaged or alters in the light of your experience.

Nurses (and for that matter other health professionals) can sometimes feel they do not have a voice across the broader health sector, though I think this is changing. I certainly didn't think I'd be sitting in a room with clinicians from the resuscitation world who have such an impact internationally.

Whatever stage in your career you are, seek opportunities to be involved. This could be as a student representative, an employer’s project or committee or national organisation.

Be bold; you never know where it might lead.

Dr Alan R Williams is an Academic Lead at the University of Derby, leading the professional doctorate for the College of Health, Psychology and Social Care. In 21018 he completed doctoral studies investigating how students and tutors design web-based resuscitation resources.  He is a registered nurse with over 25 years of experience in resuscitation and education as an emergency care nurse, Resuscitation Officer and academic.

Alan is also an RCUK Advanced Life Support and Generic Instructor Course Instructor, and an elected member of the RCUK Executive Committee. He is also a Senior Fellow for Advance HE, and provides resuscitation education to the public through sports clubs.