International Nurses’ Day: Academic shortlisted for ‘Educator of the Year’ shares her nursing journey

Categories: School of Health and Society

During her 25 years at the University of Salford, Dr Julia Ryan’s roles have ranged from clinical nurse tutor to senior lecturer. For the past 10 years she has been part of the leadership team in the university’s School of Health and Society where she is currently Director of Nursing and Midwifery. Her subject specialties have been wide-ranging, but her passion has always been for nursing older people.

In March, Julia was shortlisted in the ‘Educator of the Year’ category at the national Student Nursing Times Awards.

To celebrate International Nurses’ Day, Julia shares her career journey and highlights of over 40 years in nursing education.

Did you always want to be a nurse?

“To be honest, no! As a child I certainly didn’t play with a doll’s hospital and have a nurse’s uniform. I wanted to be a spy or a journalist!”

How did you get into nursing then? 

“I was about to leave school and didn’t have much idea of what I really wanted to do. I had a couple of friends who were student nurses and they persuaded me to apply. Even when I first started, I wasn’t sure it was the career for me. But after a couple of weeks I was hooked, and once I went on my first placement, I knew I had made the right decision.  It was great to feel that I could make a difference to people, often at the most challenging times of their lives. 

“When I first qualified, I worked in coronary care and acute medicine, but after a couple of years I moved into my first Ward Sister post on a long stay ward caring for older people. Working with and for older people was something I wanted to specialise in and has remained a key interest throughout my career. However, at the time working with older people was not a popular career choice, and one of the reasons I wanted to become a teacher was to try and change perceptions and promote positive attitudes.”

What made you decide to move into nursing education?

“I think that even as a student I was interested in teaching: I loved being a ‘senior’ student and supporting more junior colleagues. When I qualified my interest in teaching grew. I am a passionate believer in the importance of education and how it can transform lives. I also passionately believe in the value of nursing and want to help students become the best nurse they can be. 

“I had a Joint Appointment for some time, meaning I spent half my time as Sister on a large rehabilitation ward and half teaching. I then got a post as a Clinical Teacher supporting students in practice, before gaining a full-time lecturer post. 

“During my time in nursing education I have been involved in supporting the learning of so many students, both pre-registration and after qualification up to PhD studies. I have also been involved in research, enterprise and innovation: for anyone thinking about a job in nursing education, there is so much opportunity to develop and still make a difference to individuals, families and communities.”

Have you got a couple of highlights from your educational career that you would like to share? 

“Too many to mention, but if I have to think of a few: 

  • A personal one is getting my Masters in Gerontology, and then my PhD. I was immensely proud to gain these qualifications and could not have achieved them without the support of my family and my colleagues.
  • In the last couple of years, I have been constantly in awe of the commitment, dedication and resilience of students, academic and professional services colleagues who have worked together to make sure that together we continue to educate nurses who make a real difference. Together with our students we are a great team.
  • I remember a personal student of mine who was having a bit of a wobble (technical term) and thinking of interrupting or leaving the programme. She was a single parent, the first in her family to go to university and she was finding it tough. We talked about the impact that her qualification would have on her family, and she decided to stay and complete the course on time. She has kept me updated and has had a really successful career to date. Last year she emailed to let me know that her eldest child was about to start university and said that the talk with me made all the difference.”

The winners of the Student Nursing Times Awards will be announced on Friday 27 May 2022 at a ceremony in the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in London.

For all press office enquiries please email communications@salford.ac.uk.