'The most valuable learning resource you have are the people you are caring for'
We talk to Ian Hulatt, the Royal College of Nursing’s mental health adviser, who qualified as a nurse in 1979.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I wanted to achieve a couple of ambitions. First, to work with people and make a difference and, second, to disprove the conclusion of my school careers adviser who recommended the gas board.
Where did you train?
I took my state registered nurse training at the University Hospital of Wales and my registered mental nurse training in Bro Morgannwg Hospital in Mid Glamorgan.
What was your first job in nursing?
I was a staff nurse on a general medical ward.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I am becoming increasingly irascible as I age and fear for my family and future carers.
Whom have you learnt most from in your career and why?
Ward nurses, who would be embarrassed to be named, but were impressive to me in the daily craft of mental health nursing. They had integrity, kindness and a clear understanding of the complex needs they were trying to meet.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
At all costs, keep asking questions and remember the most valuable learning resource you have are the people you are caring for.
What keeps you awake at night?
Being told I am snoring.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Meeting nursing colleagues all over the UK who are providing innovative care and treatment to the most vulnerable people. It is a privilege to see and hear what they are achieving.
What is your proudest achievement?
The amendments achieved in the reform of the Mental Health Act. It was an exciting time when, in cooperation with other disciplines, we won major advances for the roles that mental health nurses can adopt.
What will change nursing in the next decade?
I think, while the “business” of nursing may seem constant, the changing landscape and settings will probably have an impact. In particular, this will involve the proliferation of providers and the possibility of emerging market forces in employment terms.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
It’s a dead heat between a journalist and train driver. Fortunately I have found ways to partially achieve both.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I hope to still be useful in this role and probably developing more than a passing interest in retirement.
What makes a good nurse?
As it has always been: intelligence and compassion.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I would like to see the oft-quoted “parity of esteem” accorded to mental health services to be translated into research and development monies and service provision.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
After a week of travel, it would have to be time for family, friends, relaxation and music.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Isambard Kingdom Brunel; he deserved all the epithets awarded him. A visionary and iconoclastic engineer. We still benefit from his creations today.