Q & A: Sally Dobbs

February 2017 Vol. 15 (1)

Dr Sally Dobbs is the new chair of NETS (Nursing Education in the Tertiary Sector). Find out about her career spanning a position as deputy matron of an army field hospital in Bosnia and nursing on a hospital ship in the Amazon.

Sally DobbsJOB TITLE: Academic and Relationship Leader, School of Nursing, Southern Institute of Technology, Invercargill

Q: Where and when did you train?

A: The Nightingale School, St Thomas’ Hospital, London. I sat state finals in July 1982.

Q: Other qualifications/professional roles?

A: Bachelor of Nursing; Master of Art Education (Health Education/Promotion); Master of Science (Medical Science); Postgraduate Diploma in Travel Medicine (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow [RCPSG]); Postgraduate Certificate Education; Doctor of Education.

I am also a reservist nursing officer in the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps (RNZNC).

Q: When and/or why did you decide to become a nurse?

A: I wanted to be a soldier when I was little (I was a real tomboy as a child). After a period of being in hospital as a 10 year old, I wanted to become a nurse, but then changed my mind and wanted to become a doctor in the Army. I realised that I wasn’t going to get the grades, so I applied to study pharmacy at university. I failed physics, so applied to study nursing in London. I have been in nursing ever since, apart from a very short spell as a kennel maid in Cyprus!

Q: What was your nursing career up to your current job?

A: After qualifying as a nurse in 1982, I spent one year as a staff nurse at St Thomas’ Hospital and then joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps in 1983. I had a wide and varied 16-year career as an army nurse, 13 years of which were within nurse education. This involved continuing nurse education for qualified nurses who were serving in Germany, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and throughout the UK. I also spent six months as a deputy matron of a field hospital in Bosnia.

I left the British Army in 1999 and accompanied my army husband to Nepal, Germany and Cyprus, where I was able to nurse throughout this time. I have also worked on a hospital ship on the Amazon in Peru.
We moved to New Zealand at the end of 2008 for a stress-free life! I came straight to SIT as a lecturer and became the head of school after one year. I joined the RNZNC after my arrival in New Zealand and have been lucky enough to be involved in a Pacific partnership as a health educator in Samoa and Tonga. I was also very privileged to travel to Gallipoli for the Chunuk Bair centennial commemorations.

Q: So what is your current job all about?

A: SIT delivers pre-entry nursing; the New Zealand Diploma in Enrolled Nursing; Bachelor of Nursing, and the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Science programmes. I oversee the management and delivery of all these programmes. I have a significant teaching component throughout all the programmes, which allows me to know many of the students. My teaching interests are the history of nursing, evidence-based practice, health education/promotion, and leadership.

We have close relationships with the Southern District Health Board (DHB) and I also teach on the preceptorship programme delivered through the DHB. As the Head of the Nursing School, every day is different and presents a diversity of challenges. I spend a lot of time dealing with multiple emails requests and enquiries, liaise with various stakeholders and attend various meetings, participate in research, and prepare teaching sessions. In my spare time I enjoy my role as a reservist nursing officer within the New Zealand Defence Force.

Q: Can you recall the moment in your early nursing days when you first felt you were really a nurse?

A: As a third-year nursing student working on a busy neuromedical ward at St Thomas’. Third-year nursing students were known as ‘frillies’ because we got to wear a frilly cap!

Q: If there was a fairy godmother of nursing, what three wishes would you ask to be granted for the New Zealand nursing workforce?

A: Greater recognition for enrolled nurses as a regulated body of nurses; regulation of nursing students and nurse educators as a scope of practice; to have a greater influence in the promotion of healthy lifestyles for New Zealanders.

Q: What do you think are the most important personal characteristics required to be a nurse?

A: Resilience, professionalism, and compassion.

Q: As a leader in nurse education what do you believe are the strengths of nurse training in the 21st century? And where is there room for improvement?

A: The nursing programmes that are currently being delivered are very comprehensive and demonstrate the diversity of nursing opportunities. We really need to strengthen the promotion of health and primary health education within the New Zealand population and improve the image of nursing older people as an attractive career option.

Q: What do you do to try and keep fit, healthy, happy and balanced?

A: Running, boxing, walking my lovely rescue dog, and knitting. After my doctorate, I am now learning how to cook!

Q: What is your favourite way to spend a Sunday?

A: Catch up on Coronation Street on MySky, go for a long run and make a new meal, and spend time with my husband and dog and have a glass of Pimms on our deck (which has fabulous views of Invercargill and the Takitimu mountains). Sundays are such a luxury since I finished my doctorate a year ago, so I like to indulge myself!

Q: What is number one on your ‘bucket list’ of things to do?

A: Cross the Antarctic Circle.


Q: What is your favourite meal?

A: Anything that has crème brulée as a pudding!

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