This month we're pleased to introduce our newest Nursing & Midwifery Council member, Veronica Croome. Get to know her through our interview:
How did you become interested in being a Council member?
Following my retirement in late 2017 I always intended to remain connected to the Nursing and Midwifery professions in some way that was meaningful. In my role as Chief Nurse in the ACT I particularly enjoyed regulation and accreditation of the professions so when I saw the vacancy advertised with the NMC I jumped at the opportunity that this would provide.
What are you most looking forward to about the role? What have you found surprising or what has been different than you expected?
As a Council member I sit in a privileged position to know of and learn about regulating the practice of nursing and midwifery. To keep the public safe is our mandate and to minimize and mitigate the risks to our patients that may arise from the practice of nursing and midwifery can be challenging. Learning and understanding the behaviors of those practitioners referred to the Council is fundamentally important to continue to promote a safe health care environment. So I am very much looking forward to making a positive contribution in that regard.
What I have found surprising is the complexity of the work undertaken by Council staff and members. The whole process of regulation and governance of the professions is thorough, with many checks and balances to ensure a fair and equitable process. When I was Chief Nurse in the ACT and sadly albeit rarely required to refer a practitioner to the NMBA, I was unaware of the work “behind the scenes” following that point of referral. I naively assumed there was a process rolled out and had little appreciation for the extent to which there was a rigorous and comprehensive undertaking for each and every practitioner referral. It has been rewarding for me to be part of this perspective.
Tell us about your career in nursing and midwifery. What did you like the best? What did you find most challenging?
My career in nursing started back in 1973 when as an 18-year-old I left home in the suburbs of Sydney to go to Royal North Shore Hospital to join more than 100 other novice nurses embarking on our chosen career. It was such an overwhelming experience. But nursing opened up so many opportunities for me to live and work in many different places, meet so many wonderful people and to travel the world. I enjoyed all aspects of my career as a clinician, an educator and finally in a variety of management roles. I left nursing for a period of four years in the mid-1980’s and bought a delicatessen in Eastwood where I learned many things about food and finances but also about working with the public and the importance of personalized service. Customers loved the fact that you knew their name, that you took the time to chat and that you understood their needs. It’s no different in nursing.
When I returned to the profession I embarked on my management career which took me from the role of Nursing Unit Manager through to that of Chief Nurse with many roles in between. While I enjoyed them all, the role of NUM was the most rewarding as it is where I truly felt I could and did make a difference. The role of Chief Nurse was by far the most challenging as it sometimes required a fine balance between organizational support and support for the individual. But there was not a day of my nine years in the ACT in that role where I thought twice about going to work and doing the best that I could for the nurses and midwives of the ACT.
It can be challenging to find ways to incorporate the profession's standards into everyday work. What is your view on this, and how we can achieve it?
I agree, this is a huge challenge for all of us. Every day the pressures of work, time constraints, competing demands and the requirements of our patients means we are struggling to get the balance right. Sometimes we see opportunities to cut a corner or to step outside our scope of practice in an effort to meet all the workload demands and to maintain professional standards. I can absolutely see why some nurses and midwives find themselves in difficult circumstances.
However, each of us has the responsibility to work safely, legally and professionally. To not do so is not only unacceptable but it means we fail to meet the standards set by our own professions. We are obliged as health professionals to uphold these standards and if we feel we cannot, we need to speak up, seek guidance and ask for support. One of the biggest issues for me in my time as Chief Nurse was that nurses and midwives, on occasion, worked outside their scope of practice. This was rarely intentional and nor was it done to cause harm and it was invariably caused by everyday work pressures. But a license to practice the profession is one of the most precious assets we have and we need to protect it. By so doing, we are protecting the public, a difficult concept for some to understand but paramount in upholding the standards of nursing and midwifery.
What is life like for you in your free time?
Now I am semi-retired and living on the beautiful central coast of NSW, not far from the beach. I enjoy the great outdoors rather than the four walls of my office. I take walks on the beach with my dog, Molly, and like lunching with family and friends as well as reading and watching BBC dramas on television. I am learning to play Bridge and of course I now have my regular train trips to Sydney to the NMC offices. There is plenty of reading to do in preparation for these meetings so with all that there is little time for much else. I still visit Canberra every six weeks or so and do some occasional teaching as well as consulting. All in all, as so many retirees say, I don’t know how I ever had time to work!
Do you have any advice or favourite words of wisdom for our readers?
I do. Nursing and Midwifery are wonderful professions where making a difference to the lives of others is an everyday occurrence. Respect the relationship we have with patients, appreciate the importance of teamwork and practice safely, ethically and professionally. The fundamental core of what we do is caring, so care for yourselves as well as for others.