Sunday, 6 July 2014

Supporting Students, Tofu, Casual Sex and the Art of Good Mental Health

The hardest question I had to answer this week came from the VC. He had decided to support the Three Charity Ball, (Graham Layton Trust, Kidneys for Life and the Noor Foundation) and wanted me to nominate 4 colleagues to join him at a sponsored table. The criteria were to identify colleagues who had made a major contribution to supporting the experience of our students. It was an almost impossible task. We have just fewer than 230 full time colleagues working in the School, all of whom, in their own way, are committed to supporting our students’. Whether it’s sitting in the School Reception area and answering the student’s questions, to offering students advice about the next assignment, all our colleagues deliver a good student experience.

We don’t always get things right, and a great deal of my time is spent in dealing with student complaints. However, a great deal of my time is also spent on celebrating what we do get right! And there is plenty of things to celebrate…

…for example, last week I was in London for a meeting looking at the future of community nursing. The conversation appeared often stuck in the past, for example, people talked about acute care as if this only happened in hospitals – clearly not the case today and increasingly it won’t be the case in the future. There was talk about District Nurses and Community Nurses, titles that conveyed a sense of specialist knowledge difficult to acquire. Colleagues in our children’s and young people Directorate are already successfully equipping nurse of the future to work in community settings, something unheard off even just a few years ago and something I was happy to point out to Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Health Education Englands Director of Nursing.

And last week Virgin Trains also got it right for me, perfect wifi connections, no delays, and there was even a vegetarian lasagne for dinner! However and perhaps unfortunately there was no tofu on the menu. Torfu is made from soybean curd, s naturally gluten free and low calorie, contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of protein, iron and calcium. For vegetarians, it’s an important source of proteins. Recent studies have shown that apart from promoting a healthier complexion and good looking hair, tofu consumption can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, inhibit the growth of cancer cells in both breast and prostate cancer, reduce the risk of dementia and other age related brain diseases, help prevent liver damage and reduces the risk of osteoporosis and other menopausal problems.

If you can’t face including tofu into your diet, there is always casual sex. A study published last week by the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Sciences appeared to suggest that those who indulged in casual sex had a greater sense of well being than those who didn't. Well that is the way the Daily Mail and the Mirror newspapers appeared to report results (although in fairness, the Mirror did offer advice around the use of condoms and the promotion of safe sex). As the study only involved college students it is difficult to know if the psychologists have got it right or not. Personally, on this occasion, I think they probably haven’t.

I did meet some people who perhaps had a better idea to think about - these were the folk I met at the Schools Art and Mental Health Symposium. Jointly facilitated by the School of Arts and Media, and our School, and led by our Midwifery colleagues, last week the symposium saw 2 great days of paper presentations, drama performances and the opportunity to view some brillant art installations. I was fortunate enough to open Day 2 and I chose to do so by celebrating the 66 year anniversary (yesterday) of the creation of the NHS.


I have been fortunate that over the last 20 years I have been able to see health care services all over the world, including the US, India, China, Finland, Brazil, Lithuania, Australia, Holland, UAE, New Zealand, Kenya, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Canada, Wales, Hungary, Estonia and South Africa and many more. In all of these places, good and not so good, the NHS has shone like a beacon of hope. Like our efforts in the School, the NHS doesn’t always get it right, but I hope we are both open to learning from our mistakes