A professor and former dean at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery in London, England, a former member of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery and a Commander of the British Empire (CBE), Anne Marie Rafferty adds a new title to an already impressive list. As the 2013-2014 Frances Bloomberg International Distinguished Visiting Professor, Rafferty will work with the Faculty of Nursing on multiple research and policy arenas while developing collaborative partners within the University. Rafferty, who was in Toronto this past week for her first visit in this new role, discusses her new role.
What drew you to nursing?
My imagination was initially fired by my mother, who was a nurse. Her heyday was during World War II and she would tell these tales of nursing POWs in a military hospital in her native Scotland. She was very proud of being a nurse and her stories drew me into this rich landscape and were an integral part of my childhood. Even at school, if an accident happened on the yard people would have me come over and take a look because of my mum’s experience and ask for my nursing advice. Of course, I had no clue what to do, I was five or six at the time, but people naturally connected me to my mother’s profession and thought I would have some ideas on providing care. When I got older, she’d talk about patient symptoms and approaches to care that she was taking with them and that gave me a glimpse into her world.
At first, I thought nursing would be interesting but I never set out to make nursing my only career. But when I got to university I became really intrigued in the political and intellectual side of nursing and that started shaping my choices. Leslie Hardy, a Canadian nurse who was my tutor in first year at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland really inspired me and shaped my nursing career. She passionately believed in the power of education for nurses and that really made a lasting impression on me. I felt the best way I could develop nursing was through the science and research. I recognized that there was a strong practical art to nursing but I enjoyed the intellectual and theoretical basis of the profession.
Your contributions to the U.K. health system are widespread and quite meaningful, what do you hope to accomplish in your year as the Frances Bloomberg International Distinguished Visiting Professor?
I’m going to be taking a close look at what, if any, issues the U.K. and Canadian health system have in common, especially in terms of workforce. I’m interested in seeing how Canadians are integrating care from the hospital to the home and I’m keen to establish research links here within the University and some of the people who collaborate with the Faculty. More people are now developing and managing multiple health issues and as we age that picture becomes more complex. The universal need to integrate health care is pressing and quite profound and I’m interested in organizationally how it’s being done in Toronto and if there’s anything we can learn in the U.K – in particular, developing academic service partnerships. They’re not easy to formulate and Toronto has the advantage of relative proximity where most of ours in the U.K. are here, there and everywhere and these different geographies do play a role when establishing partnerships
Do you feel that the U.K. and Canada have many similarities?
Both health systems are very complex but I get the impression Canada is a bit of a hybrid of the U.K. and the U.S., with a private sector and public sector element. But overall, we’re all dealing with the same issues of mounting challenges of multiple health issues, aging populations and how to keep people healthy longer while building their sense of resilience. And while doing that, increasing the running dialogue between home care and the hospital interface to manage patient care. That need to open those lines of communication is as prominent for us as it is for you.
After an incredibly rich and influential nursing career, what are your thoughts on the profession now?
I truly feel that nursing is one of the most fascinating disciplines and arenas of human endeavour you could ever be engaged in. And it’s so profoundly important – care is of immense importance to society and how we look after the vulnerable is a signifier of civilization. Care and health care needs to be higher in the value chain that it actually is there’s something to be said for how we endow and attribute nursing and care as a major issue that society needs to take more seriously.
Is this Distinguished Professorship your first international role?
I spent some time in the U.S. in the 90s for a Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy and Practice and was looking at the Clinton administration health care plan and followed the lobbying tactics. Twenty years later, I’m not surprised that things have gone the way they have for the “Obamacare” Affordable Care Act– the same manoeuvres have been applied to that as it was to Clinton’s original plan and there rehashing the same tactics they did when Clinton was in office..
Who did you meet from the Royal Family when you received your Commander of the British Empire (CBE)?
My CBE was presented to me from Prince Charles and he was quite charming and engaging. He asked me “are we still recruiting international nurses?” and I said “well, the department of health are supposed to be complying with a recruitment protocol and I think it’s reduced.” He seemed intrigued so I continued on with “any help you can give us to help boost recruitment and improve the educational fortunes for nurses would be wonderful.” I didn’t get to hear his answer as I was being ushered off the staged but I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to get that message out to the next King of England.