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Last Updated: Monday, 13 December, 2004, 07:44 GMT
Experts Examined - Beverly Malone
Image of Beverly Malone
"Being a nurse totally consumed me."
In a series where we talk to leading health experts, BBC News Online meets Dr Beverly Malone.

As General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing she is responsible for the leadership of the largest professional association and trade union for over 375,000 nurses in the UK.

Dr Malone explains how her training as a nurse and a clinical psychologist have armed her for a career in health politics.

At school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Image of Bette Davis
Anything with Bette Davis in, and the film Cabin in the Sky

I joined the future nurses club and then became an assistant, like a health care assistant, in the local hospital. It was voluntary work.

From there I went on to do a university programme for nursing. It's always been a passion.

I really couldn't imagine being anything else other than a nurse. Being a nurse totally consumed me. I am also a clinical psychologist so I actually am more than a nurse.

What first got you interested in what you do now?

My great-grandmother was a healer in the community. We lived in a very rural area of Kentucky in the segregated deep south. It was a black community.

My great-grandmother
She was such a strong woman and yet at the same time very compassionate and caring.

She just took care of people. She was sort of the healthcare resident, so I grew up knowing about different herbs and medicines that could heal.

I was her scout. She would take me into the woods and she would say 'pick this' and 'pick that'. I wouldn't know what I was picking, and then she would make it into a medicines.

What are the major issues or challenges in your field of interest at the moment?

To make sure that patients get what they need in this changing community.

Everything is in such a state of flux, patients are more expert than they have every been and the system is more disparate.

Image of church (generic)
My faith in Jesus Christ, in the Lord.
I think I would be horrible if I wasn't religious.

Getting the right staff with the right patients and giving the right service is a really important piece of the challenges that are ahead.

I think the whole issue is around public health - people managing not only their own illnesses but their health and actually how to stay out of hospital.

My thought is that eventually, when babies are born, those little name tags round their wrists will have a DNA map and it's going to say that x and y and z is likely to happen and the whole goal will be to keep those things from happening.

Nurses will be translators to help patients and families understand how to manage their health.

What worries keep you awake at night?

If I'm awake it means I'm sick.

Torture, to see children harmed, sexual abuse, physical abuse and war.

I have never been one to worry. I just don't do that.

There are things that are very sad like the war in Iraq. But I don't tend to take those things to bed with me.

What do you regret?

I did not have enough children. I only had two.

Opinionated and self-satisfied.
It's not that I'm perfect, it's really about feeling that I have got enough.

I would have liked to have had four or five because they are so delightful.

They are so incredibly wonderful. I just feel they are the best part of me. They are the best thing I have ever done with my life.

What would you have done if you hadn't gone in to this?

The other thing is politics. I do have a taste for it.

But for me, it sits with my career as a nurse so it's not changing my role it's just extending it.

If I've got my faith I can accomplish anything I need to accomplish.
I was an intern for a senator for Hawaii and just fell in love with politics. I had a knack for it.

All of my wonderful psychiatric skills, they just were so transferable it was great. And being a nurse we are taught how to complete things.

We are used to managing more than 15 things at a time and when you are working in politics all of those skills come in handy.

Born 1948
1970: Graduated and began her career in nursing
1991 Graduated as a clinical psychologist
1996: Appointed president of the American Nursing Association
1999: Appointed by Bill Clinton as deputy assistant secretary for health within the US Department of Health and Human Services
2001: Became RCN general secretary
2003: Member of the steering committee of the NHS Modernisation Agency

Profile: Dr Beverly Malone
14 Jun 02 |  Health
Nurse leader under fire
14 Jun 02 |  Health

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