Brian Coupe's story for NHS75

As the NHS reaches a momentous milestone of 75 years, this is an occasion to celebrate the dedicated staff and volunteers who have shaped the NHS into what it is today.

In the lead up to the NHS’s birthday on 5 July, LYPFT staff are telling their stories of inspiration and dedication that led them to join the NHS and what motivates them to continue their important work.

Brian Coupe is a Senior Nurse who is currently supporting West/Northwest CMHT with depot work in the community and in clinic. He is based at Willow House, St Mary’s Hospital.

What gets me out of bed in the morning? That’s a little slower than it once was (after all, I have been doing this for over 41 years!). What inspires and motivates me is the work that I love, making a difference every day. Nursing is truly vocational.

My career could have been very different though. When I turned 18 years old in April 1981, I came to a cross-roads and I was considering applying to join either the Fire Service, Ambulance or Police. But in June that year, I watched a TV documentary called Silent Minority on ITV (viewer discretion advised). It documented the transition of the British mental health system from an asylum-based system to one of care in the community. This film captured the truly awful plight of individuals with a learning disability in long-stay mental hospitals. I was sickened by what I saw. My experience of volunteering at my local learning disability hospital, Westwood, was nothing like what I’d seen. That day changed my life and I applied to become a learning disability nurse in that same hospital. In November 1981, my nursing career began.

There have been many things throughout my career that I’m proud of but most of all making a real difference to people’s lives and being respected by my colleagues. I continue to be inspired by the people I support and those with whom I work – their passion, enthusiasm, energy, commitment, and their journey. I learn things every day and I’m always surprised by the little things – that one extra thing that someone does that makes your day or makes you smile.

“That day changed my life and I applied to become a learning disability nurse.”

A particular career highlight was passing my final exams (nerves? What nerves!) I only appreciated the significance afterwards when I realised that if I’d failed, my career path would have looked very different. I’ve had great times being a nurse over the years, like finding colleagues hiding in the linen cupboard to avoid the nursing officer, to cleaning bedpans and making literally thousands of beds on placement in the general hospital. Those really were the days!

I also remember celebrating the closure of the long-stay hospitals featured in Silent Minority in the 90s.

For anyone thinking about a career in the NHS, I’d say “Do it!” If you put the work in, you’ll be rewarded like never before. You’ll be working with some of the best talent in the country and you’ll be part of something good. The NHS stands for something, it means something, and it’s something special. We make a difference every day by what we do, what we say, how we act, the way we treat people, the way our passion and excellence shines through – it’s what our patients see, it’s what our colleagues see, it’s what makes us, and the NHS, the best.