We talk to Sarah Kendal, lecturer at the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester, who started mental health nurse training in 1987
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I’d been working in a health food shop and lots of customers used to ask for advice so I decided to become a health educator. At the time, the route
to that was via nursing or teaching qualifications. Initially I intended to study adult nursing, but to my surprise I was drawn to mental health instead. In the
end, I never worked in health education but I haven’t regretted my choice.
Where did you train?
I started at Whitworth Hospital in Cardi . However, my boyfriend (now husband) was working in Greater Manchester so I transferred to a course that
was run between Cheadle Royal Hospital in Cheshire, and Ashworth Special Hospital in Merseyside.
What was your first job in nursing?
A sta nurse in an acute day hospital.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I have a reputation for falling asleep at social occasions. This has blighted many an evening.
Whom have you learnt most from in your nursing career?
Most of what I know about mental health nursing, I’ve learnt from patients, although I’ve also had loads of brilliant colleagues.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Treat patients the way you would like to be treated. Keep your standards high, but choose your battles carefully.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
When students start putting practice and theory together and go out into clinical areas with fantastic knowledge and skills. I also love my research into
young people’s mental health, especially going out into schools and youth projects to talk about mental health issues.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Apart from my children, there was a month in which I completed my PhD and limped home in a triathlon. The triathlon was by far the hardest of the two,
and getting to the end of it still upright was a proud moment.
What do you think is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
I can’t remember a time when nursing wasn’t in a state of flux. It responds to the times - so, in a nutshell, everything. Population health needs, technology,
education, service configuration, I would like to fi nd ways of getting NHS patients, clinicians and administrators to understand each other’s perspectives
economic policy and so on.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
Empathy, knowledge and skills, an ethical compass and energy.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I’d like to find ways of getting NHS patients, clinicians and administrators to understand each other’s perspectives. This could be a way to address some
of the cultural and historical problems within the NHS.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Right now, a whole weekend dedicated to working through my boxed set of The Killing.
If you could spend an hour in someone’s company, who would it be and why?
In Manchester, there’s a charity that provides young, homeless people with emergency and long-term support. The person who set it up is still around and
I’d like to talk to him about how
he got started with the project.