Under the Radar with Ann Shuttleworth

Louisa Cavell

This week I spoke with PPA Award-winning Nursing Times' Practice and Learning Editor about the trials (and joys) of starting your own publications, two decades in the world of nursing and healthcare and how feeling the fear of deadlines can boost motivation...

Ann Shuttleworth

What made you want to work in the magazine industry? 

I did a degree in Media Studies when it was a brand-new thing and there were only three courses in the country, and I quickly realised I wasn't suited to newspapers. 

I'm too much of a people pleaser to ask the hard questions that news journalists need to have the balls to ask. Magazines looked like they'd be more comfortable home for me.

I fell into nurse publishing right from the off, when an old friend from college had been asked to do some work experience with a healthcare publisher and she couldn't do it, so she handed it over to me.

Apart from a minor break, I've been in nursing or healthcare publishing ever since and I've been at Nursing Times on a freelance or staff basis for about 20-odd years.

What have been your career highlights so far?

In 2015, we launched an improved Nursing Times online learning programme. We had run it on a very simple system previously, and after five years of lobbying, we finally got the company to invest in a much more sophisticated system with an online portfolio. Finally getting that launched was definitely a highlight, especially since we actually won the Great Leap Forward PPA award in 2016 for it.

Then back in the 1990s, some old colleagues and I set up a theatre magazine, which was a nice little diversion from health! Stage Theatre, rather than an operating theatre! That ran for about four years.

One thing we did find out that is the best thing to do is not invest your own money in launching a magazine, but it was good fun. 

Do you have a go-to work outfit?

I do tend to be fairly casual. The thing I don't do is heels, I cannot believe some women can wear stilettos all day! Just imagine what it does to your feet in the long term.

How do you handle deadlines?

I work right up to them. If I've got lots of time I just mess around, it's when I'm staring them right in the face that I think I do my best work, although other people might disagree.

What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?

I was thinking about this; nursing doesn't take you to too many unusual places, mainly hospitals and medical supply manufacturers.

I think I’d like to say something instead of a physical place.

We did a special issue for the centenary of Nursing Times about 15 years ago and I did the research for the first 50 years. So, it took me back to the past, and to paraphrase L.P. Hartley, it’s a foreign country and they really do things differently there. We had a full front-page ad, by OXO claiming that it cured flu, which was published during the 1919 flu pandemic that killed more people than the war. Then we had a story about a nurse who had been recruited on the basis that she had a green feather in her hat, because the chair of the interview was short sighted, and she was the only one he could remember. This was obviously before the NHS, when hospitals were all independent or charitable trusts and could get away with things like that. There was also a spread with a picture of a row of hospital beds lined up on some seaside promenade with disabled kids in them with a headline “Cripples by the seaside”.

What would people be surprised to know about your job?

Well, I suppose from the title of Practice and Learning Editor sounds like I’m at a desk editing heavy clinical things most of the time. Actually, both me and my job share partner, Kathryn Godfrey, work across pretty much all aspects of the brand. We cover events, team marketing, and sales, which is why I did the team entry for this year's PPA Awards, because we do work very much as groups with specific functions within one big team and we’re pretty good at working together across disciplines. Maybe people wouldn't expect that so much.

Walk me through your typical day.

Because I work across aspects there isn’t really that typical a day. There's obviously emails to sort through, and I usually do some of magazine or website production, like editing and proofing, but then I could be editing marketing copy or checking awards entries, or going out with our corporate sales team to a sales pitch, where I’ll talk clients through what we offer their nurses – I leave the sales team to talk money though. So, it's quite varied.

I think it's been 13 years, that Kathryn and I have job shared on this on this role.

How has being a member of the PPA helped you/added value to your brand?

I think particularly over the last decade or so when the magazine industry has been going through such a hard time, it's organisations like this that help you to find ways through.  Especially with things like the move online, it’s good to be able to share best practice instead of seeing each other just as competitors.

I think we are getting there with learning how to make money out of online publications, and I think it is organisations like the PPA, that help industries to get through times like this. Hopefully we are, certainly Nursing Times, and the EMAP brands seem to be finding our way through.

If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day? 

I’d like to say something like I’d do yoga and lots of self-improving, reading the things that I always feel I should read or running. The truth is, I am very lazy, so I would probably waste it! And I actually love sleeping…

What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?

My mother in law on her 91st birthday with her cake.

Ann Shuttleworth photo

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Candy Crush Soda.

Whose phone number do you wish you had?

My musical obsession, Nick Cave. Though it’s probably for the best that I don’t, as I’d just be burbling nonsense down the phone at him.

What’s the best/worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The best probably would have been former Director of ours, who was about to leave the company, so she could be a little bit more frank, possibly, than she might have been. It was when Kathryn and I had a bit of a professional disappointment and she offered to talk us through it. She said, “You have to be clear with your employers about what you want and if you're not happy be prepared to walk away.”

What/where is your happy place?

It's probably just sitting in my flat with my husband. We're pretty boring but happy.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

That I’m a trained hypnotherapist. I trained while I was freelancing a few years ago and had a dry patch.

I'd been really interested to learn, as I'm very susceptible to hypnosis myself, so I did a course with the intention of sort of splitting between journalism and hypnotherapy; one's written word, one spoken word, they kind of complement each other.

Then journalism picked up again, and then I got a permanent job, so hypnotherapy took a backseat. I can always come back to it if I do a refresher course because it's really, really rewarding. You can do you can just transform people's lives, like getting rid of phobias and helping them break habits, that sort of thing.

What would be in your Room 101?

The greengrocers’ apostrophe, basically the inappropriate use of the apostrophe. They used to be called greengrocers’ apostrophes because on market stalls greengrocers, every product is pluralised.

Introvert or extrovert?

I think I'm probably more extroverted than introvert, but I do have my introverted moments.

Optimist or pessimist?

I'm an optimist by nature but I developed cancer a couple of years ago which knocks your optimism a bit, but I think I think I've got through it so more optimistic now.

Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?

Television. I’ve just finished Years and Years and am starting on The Handmaid’s Tale.

Sweet or savoury?

Generally savoury, but I do need a bit of dark chocolate most days.

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl. I'm hopeless in the morning, I try to avoid any anything that requires more than 60% of brain activity before 10am.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee, especially in the morning. I need at least three cups!

Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?

Well, I use them, so I guess they’re not really cool, but they do help with the fact that you've got no nonverbal cues in texts and emails. I only use them with friends, I wouldn't use them professionally, apart from maybe a little smiley face. With my friends, it’s usually the puking one.

Vomiting emoji

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