We talk to Gwen Moulster, consultant nurse at Haringey Learning Disabilities Partnership, who has been a nurse for 35 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
I was a volunteer at a large hospital for 2,500 people with learning disabilities. I met many interesting and wonderful people, and missed college to spend more time with them. The ward sister suggested I meet one of the senior nurses and that was it. I signed up that day and have never regretted it.
Where did you train?
The Manor Hospital, Epsom, as a nurse, and West London Institute of Higher Education as a community nurse.
What was your first job?
Staff nurse on a ward for 24 children with learning disabilities at Manor Hospital.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I tend to talk too much. While this is a sign of my motivation, I would like to be more succinct and hold back a bit to ensure others can fully contribute too.
From whom have you learnt most in your nursing career?
I learnt what it means to really care from the truly inspirational Sister Pat Barnes, senior nurse at Leavesden Hospital. People with learning disabilities and their families have taught me about the importance of rights, choice, dignity and respect.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Don’t be afraid to challenge if you feel something isn’t right. Keep yourself fresh by doing different things. Seek help and advice and learn from others’ experiences. Always remember why you became a nurse.
What keeps you awake?
I worry about how changes in the NHS and social care will affect people with learning disabilities and their families. I fear they will have fewer choices and less control over their lives. For such a disempowered group, this could be disastrous.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Direct contact with people with learning disabilities and their families reminds me why what I do and how I do it matters.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
Care at home will change the type of interventions done in the community, and nurses will have to be autonomous and more robust support systems will be needed. Hospital nurses will need sophisticated skills and to be confident in using new medical technologies.
What makes a good nurse?
The best nurses I know are caring, compassionate, empathetic, enthusiastic, motivated, innovative, creative, evidence based and reflective.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
Better communication in every direction, with people who use services, families, colleagues, commissioners and others.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Maya Angelou, poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, film maker and civil rights activist. She said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”