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60 seconds with... Colin Tyrie, senior public health development adviser

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We talk to Colin Tyrie, senior public health development adviser in substance misuse at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, who qualified as an RGN in 1990 and as an RMN in 1995.

Why did you become a nurse?

I was born with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (a genetic progressive neuromuscular condition) and spent a lot of time in hospitals as a child and adolescent. I wasn’t diagnosed until much later so I understood the value of nursing interventions when there is no diagnosis or a cure. For me nursing, is a very philosophical profession that has many applications.

Where did you train?

As a general nurse at St Albans City Hospital then as a mental health nurse in Guy’s and Lewisham hospitals.

What was your first job?

Staff nurse on a 32-bed mixed gender surgical ward. I wanted to get some general experience on surgical and medical wards before I specialised a year later in HIV/Aids nursing.

What trait do you least like in yourself and why?

Pride can be a problem. I don’t like to accept help sometimes. I think this comes from having a disability; I want to prove myself as able as anyone else.

Whom have you learnt most from in your nursing career?

My first nurse trainer, Guy Parker-Dean at St Albans, encouraged me to overcome my fear of failing. He gave me his first staff nurse epaulettes when I qualified. I still have them.

What advice would you give someone starting out?

Question the rationale for your practice and seek evidence of its effectiveness. Place yourself in the patient’s shoes rather than judging behaviour or lifestyle.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Drug users are often described in a disparaging manner and treated unfairly, so whenever I am able to address this, even in a small way, I feel satisfaction.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Professionally, it was the day I qualified as a nurse. I left school with one O-level and had a disability. I didn’t believe I would get past the application stage.

What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?

I think and hope we will see a wider representation of different people entering nursing, including those with disabilities.

What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?

I would have loved to be a human rights campaigner.

What makes a good nurse?

Empathy and advocacy make a nurse patient focused. A “good nurse” is right for that patient and that situation at that time, which is why we should encourage a wide range of people to enter the profession.

If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?

I would stop competitive health markets and return to a central, regulated NHS. Cooperation seems to have been superseded by competition.

What’s your ideal weekend?

Spending time with my wife, daughters and dog, in a Cornish cottage by the sea.

If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?

Christy Brown, the Irish author, painter and poet who had cerebral palsy and could only write or type with one foot (he was depicted by Daniel Day-Lewis in the Oscar-winning My Left Foot). He demonstrated that the physical body should never limit possibilities and potential

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