Len Bowers: the man behind the Safewards model

The professor of nursing, whose approach to care has found worldwide popularity, talks to Colin Parish about his experiences along a career path he could not have predicted

The professor of nursing, whose approach to care has found worldwide popularity, talks to Colin Parish about his experiences along a career path he could not have predicted.

Abstract

Few nurses can have had more of an impact on acute mental health nursing care than Len Bowers, who has retired from his post as professor of psychiatric nursing at the King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.

Professor Bowers developed the Safewards approach, which has been adopted widely in the UK and around the world.

While Professor Bowers is modest about his contribution and keen to acknowledge that Safewards was built on the work of the many nurses and academics involved in his research, there is no doubt that he was the driving force behind it.

Safewards is a fitting culmination to a career in nursing that almost didn’t get off the ground.

‘I initially trained for the ministry, so I was a committed Christian at that time,’ Professor Bowers says. ‘But I emerged from that training without really knowing what I was going to do. My friends said “while you’re figuring that out, why don’t you come and be a psychiatric nurse?”

They took me on a tour around the local hospital’s back wards, set up an interview, and that’s how I started as a nurse.’

Professor Bowers says it was around this time that he lost his faith and, in some personal turmoil, he left his nursing course halfway through and went travelling.

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This article was first published in print in Mental Health Practice: volume 19, issue 5

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