We talk to Bob Gates, professor of learning disabilities at the University of Hertfordshire and visiting professor of learning disabilities at the University of West London, who has been a nurse for just over 40 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
It was all a little bit of a mistake. A friend and I bunked off school for a day. Our school engaged pupils on community projects and the day we bunked off was the day everyone else chose a project. The next day, the only project left was to build a pets corner at Leavesden Hospital in Hertfordshire (an old long-stay learning disability institution). The rest, as they say, is history.
Where did you train?
At Leavesden Hospital as a learning disability nurse then at Napsbury Hospital at London Colney as a mental health nurse.
What was your first job?
I was a staff nurse in an acute mental health admission ward.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I get frustrated about how long it takes to change things even when everyone knows they are wrong.
From whom have you learnt most in your career?
Margaret Clarke – one of the first professors of nursing – a humble but astute person with an incredible intellect.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Work at a good work-life balance. In the past I have not managed this well and it had a negative influence on my life.
What keeps you awake?
Usually worrying over lectures, and after all these years it has not got any better.
What is your proudest achievement?
Personally, seeing my four children growing up to be such lovely people. Professionally, my first book – the first in the UK on advocacy and nursing.
What do you think will change nursing in the next decade?
I do think that there will be a backlash against moving much of health and social care to the private and independent sectors, and I suspect we will see aspects of this reversed. I am confident that learning disability nursing will reassert itself within the nursing family.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I had a passion to become an actor – I nearly went to drama school. I suspect I would be in retail in some form or another.
What makes a good nurse?
A good nurse is practical, highly competent, patient, kind, caring, thoughtful, considerate, empathetic and intelligent. That is not too much to ask for, is it?
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could take some of the politics out and concentrate just on improving healthcare for all?
What would your ideal weekend involve?
After a long walk with my wife Briege and my dog Ash in the Peak District, finding a good pub and sitting in front of an open log fire drinking real ale – could anything beat that?
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
Most likely my dad, who died far too young. I have many things to tell him about.