Former hairdresser and Highgate Wood cafe owner qualifies as mental health nurse at 66

Basho Dunsford.

Basho Dunsford. - Credit: Archant

A former cafe owner and hairdresser has proved you’re never too old to learn after qualifying as a mental health nurse at the age of 66.

Basho Dunsford got his BSc Hons in October and now works as a staff nurse at Highgate Mental Health Centre in Archway, run by Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.

He first started working for the trust in 2009 as a healthcare assistant at St Luke's Hospital. He had no experience in healthcare but while recovering from a mugging he saw an advert in the Ham&High and wanted to try something different.

"I've always been involved in mind, body and spirit," says Basho, a former yoga teacher and massage therapist. "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!

"I'd had a life-changing period and during my recovery, I wanted to try something different in terms of my career."

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Basho believes his work as a hairdresser and running The Oshobasho Cafe in Highgate Wood for years, has helped him succeed in his role. He took it on in 1990 after spotting it on a stroll through the park and then seeing it had been out to tender in, again, the Ham&High.

"I'd speak to people every day about their lives," he said. "They'd open up and I always found this a great privilege. I also ran the cafe for many years which I loved, as I had the chance to meet so many wonderful people.

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"The cafe 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 jobs seem quite different, they've built the skill set I need for my role, which is essentially person-centred care."

Basho was supported to study for two years to become an assistant practitioner, before doing his degree at Middlesex University, and writing his dissertation on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation for mental health nurses.

"Lots of our service users have been through some very difficult periods of life," he continued. "It really is a privilege when a therapeutic relationship develops and in trust, people reveal themselves and share their stories."

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