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Profile: district nurse is awarded a CBE

Every year the New Year's Honours list recognises the dedication and achievements of extraordinary people. This year Kingston's professor Fiona Ross achieved a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her contribution to healthcare and higher education.

When discussing the award she said: “I feel mystified, thrilled and very excited it's been lovely the reaction I have had from people and how many lovely letters and cards I have received.”

Ross received her award following years of hard work in nursing, her roles have included, district nurse in the community, staff nurse at St Christopher's Hospice, lecturer at The Queen's Nursing Institute, senior lecturer and sub dean at St George's Hospital Medical School, professor of primary care at Kingston, director and professor at King's College, executive dean at Kingston & St George's and her current post is professor of research at Kingston University and St George's, University of London.              

“I have never done anything in order to get any kind of award for it, I have just done a job that I felt was important and it is about developing nursing in order to provide better care,” she says in response to receiving the gong.

Ross describes her career in nursing as hugely rewarding, she says: “It's a journey for me that started with patients and the importance of good nursing and good care delivered by the team working together with other professionals - because nobody can do anything on there own.”

Ross began her career in nursing with her degree but remembers a lot of critical views on her choice of career. “I did a nursing degree in 1970 and started when degrees were very rare in nursing and people said to me, 'Why do you want to go to university to do a degree in nursing? Why don't you want to be a doctor?'” she says.

But Ross felt her interests were in people, so after completing her degree in 1975 she began working in the community as a district nurse. “I was particularly interested in aging and nursing for people in the place they wanted to be which was in there home,” she says.

During this time Ross felt once again she not always understood for wanting to have a career in district nursing. “I went straight into district nursing much to the consternation of the nurse managers of the time who thought she won't hack it or why does a degree nurse want to do district nursing.” “There was an incredibly patronising idea about district nursing being a dead-end career which really infuriated me and made me want to do something about raising the status of district nursing,” she says.

Ross became determined to alter this negative perception and to educate people about the district nursing profession. She says: “It is one of the places were nurses can make a contribution because it's about people's lives and their families lives.” 

She then chose to progress her career and began her PhD. During this time she took maternity leave and on her return was given the opportunity to teach. “I got head hunted to go and work at King's College, which was Chelsea College at the time, to be a lecturer in community nursing,” she said. Beginning a career in teaching allowed her to educate students on community nursing giving an insight into care therefore altering the negative stigmas attached to the career.

Ross continued her career in higher education and was appointed to many respected posts, in 2006 she was then appointed executive dean, faculty of health and social care and education at Kingston and St George's - one of her highest posts in her career.

Speaking about this she says: “It was a hugely busy job but also hugely rewarding we did lots of really profoundly transformational things in terms of putting the faculty on the map for nursing, as the quality when I started was not desirable”. “Over the period of eight years with some fantastic colleagues we turned things around and we developed some really innovative curriculum.” During her time as dean she worked to transform the learning outcomes for students, although she feels the faculty was about more than just the curriculum changes. “I am really proud of lots of our students but it wasn't just about nursing it was about the inter-professional staff, about the research, about developing a faculty for public health professionals and public sector professionals who have reflected the research informed and who care about the services, it was a great privilege.”

In 2014 Ross's post changed again to professor of research, faculty of health, in social care and education at Kingston and St George's, while also dedicating time to part time roles. She said: “I am the director of research at the leadership for higher education, which is a fantastic opportunity and its really interesting, I also work for academic health science network, I am a educational lead for Translondon and work on a different number of research projects with colleagues at Kingston and St George's.”

Additionally to all of this work Ross is a trustee at Princess Alice Hospice but she doesn't seem fazed by the amount of work. “I have a large number of responsibilities, but they all come together and they are all about research and developing practice in the community,” she says.

Her determination to develop and educate practice in the community and improve the nursing profession has been remarkable. All of which has lead her to being awarded the well deserved CBE in the New Year's Honours list.