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'There isn’t one particular thing that people need to be a "good" student nurse'

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Meet Andrew Walsh, senior lecturer in mental health at Birminham City University and this month’s student editor role model

Andrew Walsh-SNT

How did you end up a nurse lecturer?

I never saw myself as a lecturer until I met someone I had worked with in the past who was now working at BCU. She suggested it and effectively put the idea in my head.

I am now a module leader on the undergraduate course – I usually work on third year modules but I also run a module for people doing a top-up degree.

My career is still progressing and I’m hoping to finish my doctorate soon. I am trying to develop my research experience and I also hope to publish more.


What are your interests within mental health?

I have neglected this a bit recently in order to focus on my doctorate but I am interested in mental health nursing care, particularly what nurses actually do and how can we make this better.

I plan to do some work with people who are caring for service users with ongoing mental health problems. I am also developing a research study and conference into clinical supervision in mental health nursing.

And of course I’m interested in teaching! How do we do this better? What makes people learn and how best can we support this?


What makes someone a “good” student mental health nurse?

Obviously, people need to be patient, caring, and honest. Beyond that, I think that a range of qualities can be acceptable and there isn’t one particular thing that people need.

For example, some approach it in a very academic, cerebral way. These students sometimes get labelled with the “too posh to wash” thing and are accused of being too academic to be good nurses. Personally I think this is rubbish – the good academic students I have seen recently have all been excellent in practice.

“The good academic students I have seen recently have all been excellent in practice”

On the other hand, I meet some students who aren’t as academically capable, they will often just about get through. Many have experience of mental health problems. I have seen so many of these students go on to become really excellent nurses that I am now careful how I judge people.

I think that mental health nursing is a broad church and we are able to use a variety of people.


What are the current issues that will affect students when they qualify?

Quite a few issues actually. Note though that this isn’t anything new – there were loads of issues when I qualified in 1979 – there’s always something!

NHS re-organisation, the last one was baffling. I don’t know why they government decided on doing this – they didn’t say anything about giving the NHS an overhaul when they were campaigning and I don’t know if anyone would have voted for it. I still don’t understand how the NHS is supposed to work!

While we haven’t seen privatisation to the extent that critics feared I do think that this is probably coming and we will live to regret it if we let the NHS slip into private ownership.

“Uncertainty is probably a given”

So uncertainty is probably a given – a shame because people need to get on and care properly.


Tell us something interesting your students might not know about you

I have a Staffordshire Bull terrier called Albert who I am trying to teach to dance. I prefer Tamla Motown -  he is more into classical music but will compromise if given enough doggy treats.

I am always reading at least two books – currently ‘Sarum’ by Edward Rutherford as well as a book about Dr David Kelly who was the scientist who “committed suicide” after the controversy about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq row.

“I have a Staffordshire Bull terrier called Albert who I am trying to teach to dance”

I really like history. I used to be a guide at Harvington Hall which is just outside Bromsgrove. it is a mainly Tudor era house which contains more priest hiding holes than anywhere else in England. I am trying to write a novel about the man who made the hides – a man called Nicholas Owen. He was tortured to death in the tower of London but the torturers never managed to get him to talk about what he knew.


Chosen and interviewed by Rebecca Kidman, Student Nursing Times’ mental health student editor

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