A farewell from Dr Theresa Shaw

Theresa Shaw, FoNS Chief Executive

Dr Theresa Shaw (NursD, BA (Hons), RNT, RN - Associate Facilitator

So here I am in my final week! When I announced to the Board of Trustees at the beginning of December last year that I planned to step down as Chief Executive, May 2019 seemed such a long way off!

As I reflect on my almost 21 years (16 as Chief Executive) I feel grateful and privileged – I know these are often phrases espoused in leaving speeches, but I genuinely mean it. I could never have imagined when I enter the basement offices on Buckingham Palace Road on 13th July 1998 that I would still be here now.

I have said many times before that leading FoNS has been a joy; I am not so modest as to suggest that this hasn’t had something to do with me but leaders who are successful do not achieve success on their own. I am so proud of the team of staff I have worked with over years. Some have come and gone other have stayed – all have flourished as we have learnt together, supported each other, had a good deal of fun from time to time and ultimately worked hard to achieve the charity’s objectives and purposes: Purposes that have people at their heart, the people who need health and social care and those who deliver it.

Having mentioned the people who deliver care, I want to take this opportunity to say something about an area that really causes me concern as a nurse. Everyone knows the work of health and social care staff is not always easy, it never has been – certainly not from my recollections as a nurse for over 38 years now. But, what I find of profound concern is the overwhelming sense of pressure and despair, not from all but from more than I feel at ease with – the  reports, over the last few days, of suicide rates in the nursing profession are alarming but didn’t surprise me because it has been clear to me that the depleting emotional wellbeing of nurses (and indeed all staff) is not being truly acknowledged. This has to change, not only for the benefit of staff but because if we want to sustain our health and social care services, we need a healthy workforce. For the future, I believe FoNS is very well placed to lead some new thinking regarding ways to help, building on the work it has led around caring cultures, which is growing in popularity. FoNS is also fortunate to have the expertise of its facilitators, who really connect with people working in practice. I believe there is also a great deal we/FoNS will learn from the doctoral work of Kate Sanders, whose innovative study (profiled in our recent weekly news) on ‘muchness’ clearly resonates with nurses and has the potential to reach out much more widely.

I had my final handover meeting with Joanne Bosanquet today – she certainly gives me confidence and makes me excited about FoNS’ future. In 2017, Professor Jenny Hunt interviewed me as part of the research for the FoNS 30th Anniversary book (available to download).  Jenny asked how I felt about the organisation (at that time). I looked back at her notes on my response, I said … ‘a strong stable organisation with a very positive future … that future will not be me in the long term but I know it will survive without me … one day the right person will take over.’ That made me smile …

Joanne will of course be different to me and bring new perspectives, but I know she will retain what I believe has always and continues to make FoNS different – that is, ‘being human’. It would not have been articulated with those two words in the early days but even when I first joined FoNS, I sense (in amongst all the policy language) the commitment to trying to connect with people, do something good and be kind. Today there is a stronger evidence base from work around person-centeredness and building relationships. This has strengthened the focus and influenced the way we work with others, making a difference to how people feel about themselves and in turn helping them to be their best and give of their best.

So, my time is up, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone associated with FoNS who has supported me – I am not going to list just in case I forget anyone but a total of seven Chairs, numerous Trustees and Patrons and wonderful colleagues along with many partners, associates and friends. Finally, let’s look to the future and support Joanne as she leads FoNS to ‘infinity and beyond’.

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