Secretarial: Nursing the Profession I Work For.; Glenn Gathercole Is PA to Christine Hancock, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing

Article excerpt

Keeping up with Christine Hancock is one of the most exhausting jobs imaginable. Her day is so full that she has three PAs, plus a diary administrator. Her responsibilities go far wider than a normal chief executive for not only is she a powerful female figurehead in a very male- dominated health industry but she is also a key decision- maker who is heavily involved in every level of nursing from the grass roots upwards. Her role requires her to be multi-faceted and hands on, spending time with our 315,000 members and proving to them why they pay her to be their representative. As a nurse herself, she's passionate about nursing; her primary concern is to champion the cause of all nurses.

The prospect of working in a role traditionally filled by a woman, for a strong-minded female leader, within both an organisation and a profession that are predominantly female oriented, offered a challenge I couldn't resist.

People often assume that being a PA to the general secretary means working in a typing pool, so it's really quite fulfilling to be able to bust these stereotypes. I enjoy explaining that once you work at chief executive level, the traditional role of a PA goes out of the window. I have to be fully genned up on everything that passes through Christine's hands. I also need to be completely up to date with information technology systems and how to implement them, as well as be fully familiar with all issues affecting nursing, including politics and working conditions. When the telephone rings, it could be anyone - a minister, another politician, one of the royal palaces, a peer or baroness, any one of our many members or even a retired nurse with a strong opinion about uniforms. I also have to be careful to toe the party line rather than voicing my own opinions. However, outside work my job is a good conversation piece, particularly when I can put someone's hospital experience into perspective by explaining what nurses have to cope with behind the scenes. Nursing occupies 99 per cent of Christine's time and about 75 per cent of mine. …