It’s people not roles that matter; what values drive your practice ?

July 23, 2015



“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu



Pen Clark (twitter – @fidgetfairy) has kindly asked me to write this blog. I am grateful for the invitation and honoured that it is on the Learning Disabilities Nursing website that it will hosted. I have agreed to say something about what I do and why I do it – the actions and their motivation. I promise to write honestly and I hope there is something of value in what I write for those who will read it.  I write this in a personal capacity.


I work at York Street Health Practice in Leeds – the medical centre for homeless people and people in the asylum system. We are part of Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust. We work with nearly 1300 people in the city and have a multi-disciplinary team of nurses, doctors, support workers, admin and drug therapists. We work in partnership with statutory, third sector and faith sectors.


I have worked at York Street for the last 20 years. Most of that time on the streets with people who are homeless. These days I work as practice manager and also do service development and teaching too. I am regularly on twitter and have found twitter to be a great place of network, connection and support. It has also been to me a space for creativity and inspiration. I have met there incredible people who I wouldn’t swop for anything. I also blog on a very regular basis. I especially co-blog with others – patients, leaders, nurses, support workers, midwives, service improvement specialists, etc. As I write these words I feel it is truer to say I blog with people who I find a common connection and vision with. It’s people not roles that matter. The co-blogging is sometimes to support someone find and express their voice and message. I believe we all have a message and a song – and its important that we can see it and sing it.


The reasons I do what I do are probably many and varied. I will try to articulate three several key values that drive me. I can’t say I don’t fail in them because I do. They are three wishes which I try to make real. I don’t have magic genie in a bottle to make them happen but I do have an inner genie. That is the choices I can make everyday about how I look and respond to others and issues. This inner genie has the power to make the wishes come true.


The first value is people. I believe that people matter. That each of us really matter. That, despite what ever our failings are, we have tremendous assets and gifts. Carl Rogers the eminent psychologist referred to the ‘vast  resources’ that we all have. Often people, life and our own inner voices tell us the opposite. They shout and whisper that we are useless, worthless and of no value. These voices are untruths. They really are. The truth is that each of us has infinite value and incredible potential. We all need to find mirrors that  tell us the truth. That reflect the true visage and story. The hundreds of homeless people I have had the honour to know and the thousands of hours I have spent with them have taught me this. There has never been one who was not the repository of great things. Mountains of negativity cover the gifts but the jewels are still there hidden and shining. I hope that this value of the importance of people informs what I do. Its often when we can see through the mess that we can see the magic.


The second value is inclusion. We live in services, organisations and relationships that can exclude people. That can make people feel small and worthless. Sadly even in progressive causes this can happen. Ego, jealousies and insecurities can push people out and keep them out. Inclusion is all about generating circles which include and value others. The message of inclusion is simple – ‘You matter – we care’. It is also what families, friendships, services and being in love should be about too. It is valuing the other and to welcome them into the work and future.


The last value is actually the foundation of the first two. It is the heart, energy and essence of the others. It is kindness. Kindness is a transformational power. It can reach, change and connect in ways beyond words. It can have a gentleness like a summer breeze and a power like a mighty thunder storm. Kindness is being there for ourselves and others. Kindness to oneself and to others supports the emergence of the best we can be and the best we can offer. What would a world where kindness didn’t exist look like? I think for many of us the immediate image that our minds suggest is a cold, barren and desolate place. Perhaps the concentration camps of the modern era are powerful pictures of where regimes attempted to banish kindness as practice and principle. Yet even in these awful places kindness appeared.


People, inclusion and kindness are three forces that inspire me to work, tweet and blog. I don’t claim to be proficient in any of them. But I am trying. Learning Disability Nursing is one of the most important vocations in the world. LD nursing is all about people, inclusion and kindness too. Its interesting how these values call to us whatever our work specialism. They unite and inspire us because they are all about what we are and can be.


John Walsh @johnwalsh88

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