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Date: 2 June 2020
UHB histories: interview with Cynthia Clamp
Cynthia Clamp has had a long association with the nursing profession throughout her career. After leaving school she undertook paediatric nurse training from 1954-58 at Bristol Royal Hospital for Sick Children where she obtained the qualification of Registered Sick Children’s Nurse (RSCN).
For just over a year after qualification Cynthia worked as a housemother at the Caldecott Community, a boarding school for maladjusted children in Kent, caring for profoundly disturbed young teenage boys.
From there she decided that nursing ‘really was for her’ and went to Dudley Road (now the City Hospital) Birmingham in 1960 to take a shortened two year course to become a State Registered Nurse (SRN).
Part 1 Midwifery was followed by two staff-nurse posts and then as a sister on a busy medical ward. Much student learning took place on the wards and part of the sister’s role was to teach practical skills and help them consolidate their theoretical knowledge.
Cynthia explains “It was during my time as a sister that the Principal Tutor, Marguerite Herbert, suggested that I look into becoming a tutor myself.”
From that point Cynthia focused her efforts on teaching and mentoring nurses entering the profession. In 1967 she became a Registered Nurse Tutor (RNT) following studies at Queen Elizabeth College of London University.
In 1970 Cynthia joined the Queen Elizabeth School of Nursing in Birmingham as a Nurse Tutor. She worked in both paediatric and adult teams, teaching the practical and theoretical elements of the curriculum. The programme consisted of ‘blocks’ of theory and practical experiences in various parts of the hospitals, for example on medical, surgical and paediatric wards, outpatients, and operating theatres. The aim of this was to give students a wide picture of care.
In 1974 the Principal at the time, Margaret Cooper, asked Cynthia to conduct a small study that led to changes in the allocation of practical experiences. A problem had occurred for student nurses who were allocated to work on private patients’ wards. Feedback had shown they were not learning appropriate skills, due to the varied types of patients on these wards.
An interest in research had begun and during this period she also commenced an Open University degree, taking modules in psychology, sociology, education and research methodology.
Cynthia left the Queen Elizabeth in 1975 and moved to London taking a job with the Joint Board of Clinical Nursing Studies (JBCNS) as a Research Assistant. This organisation created national curricula for qualified nurses who wished to develop further clinical skills. The process of course development was carefully observed, and as continuous assessment was also being introduced for the first time in nursing, research was undertaken into both elements.
During this time Cynthia was also studying for a Master of Philosophy degree at the Institute of Education of London University. This study examined individual nurses’ inter-personal skills with patients and their attitudes towards these encounters.
After the government amalgamated the Joint Board (JBCNS) and the General Nursing Council in 1980, Cynthia moved to Great Ormond Street Hospital and then the Middlesex Hospital where she taught student nurses how to undertake research.
Leaving London in 1985 to take a post at Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University) she continued to teach research methods.
Cynthia has since retired but still kept a hand in research compiling, with colleagues, books entitled ‘Resources for Nursing Research: an annotated bibliography’. These were designed to complement existing research methods texts. Copies can be found in university libraries in many parts of the world where students are undertaking nursing courses. The 4th edition will soon be online!
“Research was ‘new’ to nursing in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the UK but it is now included in most courses. I feel privileged to have played a small part in its development”.
Although her time at the QE was brief, Cynthia says: “Nursing has been a wonderful, fulfilling career and I am grateful to all my teachers and students who have taught me so much”.
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