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68-year-old mental health nurse proves you’re never too old to graduate

190514 Basho Dunsford.JPG

14 May 2019


Reaching your 60s is a time when a lot of people might be thinking about retirement – or perhaps have retired already and be planning projects and holidays to keep them busy post working-life.

But it’s a different story for 68-year-old Basho Dunsford who, at the age of 66, graduated with a BSc Hons in Mental Health Nursing in October 2018 and now works as a staff nurse at Highgate Mental Health Centre – part of Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust (C&I).

Basho said: “I think I had always wanted to be a Mental Health Nurse. It’s definitely been one of the best decisions I’ve made, although I think if you had told me when I was younger that I was going to be graduating at 66 years of age, I’m not quite sure I would have believed you!”

Basho, who lives in Crouch End, joined C&I in 2009 as a Health Care Assistant at St Luke’s Hospital after spotting the role advertised in a local paper. Basho said: “I’d had a life-changing period where I’d been the victim of a mugging, and during my recovery from that, I wanted to try something different in terms of my career.”

Before joining C&I, Basho had no experience of healthcare work, but explains how his previous roles, including as a hairdresser, have definitely helped him succeed as a Mental Health Nurse.

“I’d previously spent a number of years working as a hairdresser, where I’d speak to people every day about their lives. They’d open up to me and I always found this a great privilege. I also ran a vegetarian restaurant, ‘The Oshobasho Café’, for many years in Highgate Wood which I loved, as I had the chance to meet so many wonderful people from the local community.

“The restaurant was surrounded by nature; ancient trees, cherry blossoms and many beautiful flowers. The café with its garden created an ambience of calm and relaxation which was often visited by service users from St. Luke’s and Highgate Mental Health Centre.

“Although on the surface my different job roles seem quite different, they’ve essentially built the skill set I need for my current role at the Trust, which is essentially person-centred care.”

A few years after joining C&I, Basho was offered the opportunity, with support from C&I, to study for two years to become an Assistant Practitioner. After completing this, he then studied full time at Middlesex University for a further 18 months, in order to complete his mental health nursing degree and as part of this he wrote a dissertation on the benefits mindfulness and meditation can have for mental health nurses.

He said: “My degree wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it! Immediately after graduating, I was offered a job on a rehabilitation and recovery ward at Highgate and I have been enjoying it ever since. I’m very grateful to work with such a fantastic and supportive team. I’ve also recently celebrated my 10 year anniversary at the Trust which I’m really proud of.”

Basho, who works full time, including overnight, describes what he loves best about his job: “Lots of our service users have been through some very difficult periods of life, and it really is a privilege when a therapeutic relationship develops and in trust, people reveal themselves and share their stories.”

“Playing a part in a patient’s recovery is an honour and paying attention to all aspects of their care including social, spiritual, and physical health is something I really enjoy. Being kind, compassionate, patient and self-aware are fundamental qualities for working in mental health.”

“With my age and having also lived in different parts of the world including India and Japan – where I studied and practiced yoga and meditation - I feel I can bring a variety of life experiences into the role which I believe and hope enriches the lives of those in my care, together with a good dose of humour.”

“Throughout the last decade at C&I, I’ve received so much support from colleagues and managers and I’m grateful to be part of C&I and the wider NHS who have really encouraged and inspired me in my role and my ‘later in life’ learning.”

Interim Director of Nursing, Linda McQuaid, said: ““Basho brings a wealth of life experience and skills to his nursing role, and I’d like to thank him for his work to support our service users and congratulate him on recently reaching the 10-year milestone with the Trust. At C&I, we welcome candidates of all ages so if you are interested in starting a career in mental health – why not consider a role here at C&I.” 

Has Basho’s story got you interested in a career at C&I? Take a look at our latest vacancies here

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