Nursing Times talks to Peter Wilson about his dedication to the wellbeing of vulnerable young people with learning difficult and mental health problems
“It’s little things at the end of the day,” Peter Wilson says as he tries to put his finger on the most rewarding part of working with the adolescents in his ward. “Some kids come in here and they can’t read or write. Then [one day] they can read the name off your badge. That might sound like something small, but it let’s you know that you’re making a difference.”
Mr Wilson, presently the nurse manager of St Andrew’s Adolescent Pathway, has spent most of his career trying to make even a small difference in others’ lives. In many cases, these have blossomed into much larger impacts – whether it be on his patients, his staff or his entire ward.
Growing up in Northern Ireland, Mr Wilson was first exposed to nursing at a young age when his aunt, a social worker, brought him to the acute hospital ward where she worked. After watching the nurses interact, laugh, and play with the young patients, Mr Wilson felt he had found his profession.
“It looked like a great way to make a living,” he says. Then, straight out of nursing college, Wilson found St Andrew’s. The establishment’s dedication to the wellbeing of young people with learning disabilities and mental health problems made it the proper fit for Mr. Wilson. “It looked like they were there to help young people,” he says, “that was something I wanted to be a part of.”
On his years at St Andrew’s, Mr Wilson notes that many patients have touched his life, especially those without a family who have had to make the ward their home. “It’s the young people whose family has disowned them for whatever reason [that have made the greatest impact],” he says, “They start seeing you as a part of their family because you’re all they have. It’s that group that I endeavour to spend a little extra time with because they don’t necessarily have visitors.”
It is Mr Wilson’s willingness to go the extra mile that has allowed him, in turn, to alter the lives of many patients. In fact, among his greatest achievements he ranks being able to witness the impact he has made on his patients’ quality of life. “Watching a patient that used to be in isolation and who is now going out weekly with his mum and dad for a football game – that’s a great achievement for us as a team,” says Mr Wilson.
However, because of his position as a manger, a substantial part of Mr Wilson’s time at St Andrew’s is dedicated to his staff and their achievements. “I try to help my staff to go to meetings where they can learn, provide them experiences that help them, and give them the edge for interviews,” he says, “I get as much satisfaction from seeing healthcare assistants and nurses progress at work as I do from patient care.”
At the close of 2012, Mr Wilson joined a team that began the creation of a new specialist building, the Fitzroy House, for the adolescents in his ward. This building, that has in part been designed by the patients themselves, is set to be finished this year. “Being able to be part of the development of this new building, seeing the first brick being laid, seeing us moving in, and having the facilities that are going to make an impression on these young people, is one of the most significant moments in my life,” says Mr. Wilson.
Throughout all of Mr Wilson’s work with his patients, his staff, and with the Fitzroy House is clear that his genuine happiness is derived from helping others and seeing it impact their lives. From as he might say, “the little things.”