It's amazing how many times you get asked that question. There's a reason though – the answers are always interesting!
I think for people outside the NHS and the public sector, it can be a fascinating topic of conversation because it's that idea of being part of something bigger; of not only working to provide for you and your family but also caring for those in your community when they need it most. Of course, you could say the same about anyone working in the many different careers the NHS has to offer, but as a former nurse myself that's what people ask me.
I was inspired to follow in my mum's footsteps and become a nurse 30 years ago. After doing my A-Levels I wasn't sure what to do and I'm so grateful that she suggested nursing to me, highlighting how rewarding it had been for her.
There were many times on the wards that were hard, not every day was the kind of experience you'd want to blog about, but knowing that we were making a difference and our work was appreciated always kept me going. In the years since I know things have changed, with pressures and the stress that goes with it now higher than ever, but I know many of our staff still feel the same as I did.
In a recent chat with a local journalist I talked about recruitment of clinical staff at the Countess and how difficult it has been for us, as it has been for other Trusts across the country. I told him that even though we would recruit enough nurses to fill all our vacancies in one go today if we could, so far we haven't always been able to. When the conversation started turning towards why that is the case, I found it hard to answer. Despite the pressures, despite the difficulties, for me nursing remains an incredible profession that opens so many doors and introduces you to people you'll never forget.
We have a lot to celebrate at the Countess, such as midwife Marie O'Brien being named Emma's Diary Mum's Midwife of the Year 2018 in the North West region. What makes Marie's accolade even more special is that she was nominated by a patient, who was so inspired by the level of care Marie showed that she had to do something to acknowledge it. I would like to say congratulations to Marie on behalf of the board and the chairman as well as wishing her luck as she goes forward for the national award.
There are so many examples of the extraordinary happening every day at the Countess, which is why we have launched a new monthly Countess Gems recognition scheme. We are encouraging every member of staff to get involved with this, urging them to celebrate their colleagues' achievements by nominating or posting on an internal 'Thank You Wall'.
There's a reason the tribute to the NHS is the main thing everyone remembers from the London 2012 opening ceremony… Don't forget the difference you make.