We talk to Gabriel Ngalomba, charge nurse at Thumbswood Mother and Baby Unit, Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation Trust. He has worked in mental health for 15 years.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I was working in IT when a family friend, who was a nurse, said I should consider retraining. She thought I had the right qualities. I’m still pretty good with a keyboard but mental health was a perfect fit because I like listening and talking with patients. Good communication is a key skill.
Where did you train?
Clyde University, Scotland.
What was your first job in nursing?
I worked on an acute mental health ward in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I find it hard to say “no” but I’m working on it. I sometimes stay beyond the end of my shift to see things through. It’s a difficult balance but you have to be flexible. If the unit needs me then I’m there.
From whom have you learnt the most in your career?
Elizabeth, our unit’s manager. She has taught me the importance of allowing patients the space to take more responsibility for themselves.
Some of my MA project work is used today, including a pre-admission assessment tool so anyone on duty can assess patients
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Practise with the 6Cs in mind - care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment. These are qualities we can all learn if we want to.
What keeps you awake at night?
I’m a nurse at work and a husband and dad when I get home. I don’t lie awake at night worrying about work - it’s always there the next day.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
A lot of mothers on our six-bed unit come here with postnatal depression and often feel suicidal. We help them regain their sense of independence, so seeing them get better and reconnect with their babies is amazing. The average stay is six weeks and our recovery rates are almost 100%. It’s great to see these mothers get well enough to go home.
What’s your proudest achievement?
It has to be when I got my master’s degree in mental health interventions. Some of my project work is in practical use today, including a pre-admission assessment tool, which allows anyone on duty to carry out an assessment.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
Let’s be honest - I would still be in IT.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I would really like to be a lecturer but I need to complete a postgraduate certificate in teaching first and then there’s the small matter of a PhD. I have got a good subject in mind though - looking at things from a patient-led perspective.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
Bureaucracy. There’s too much paperwork.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Watching Arsenal with my family. Alex Sanchez rules!
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
My local MP. I’ve been trying to get hold of him for a while.