My cousin’s enthusiasm for nursing convinced me to leave banking and start a nursing diploma. My first placement in elderly care was fascinating: the patients were as interested in me as I was in them. Midwifery was exciting, as I knew nothing about childbirth. Before I finished my diploma I was already planning my career.
I wanted a challenging specialty where I’d really get to know my patients. Mental health seemed perfect: the patients love to talk, and the nurses don’t wear uniforms. I like people knowing who I am purely by the way I handle myself.
To gain the right skills, I studied part time for my nursing degree and then took a Masters in Transcultural Psychiatry, which gave me an insight into how mental disorders and their treatment can be influenced by cultural and ethnic factors. I also spent a year as unit manager in a private hospital, which really opened my eyes to financial management.
Two years later, these skills helped bring me to my current position as modern matron for a mental health unit. Our team includes ward managers, nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists, and my budget is just over £2 million. I never imagined I’d be responsible for so much, but I’ve become an astute budget manager who gets value for money.
As my career has developed I’ve been careful to maintain my patient focus: I still get involved with new admissions. People lose so much when they suffer from mental illness: jobs, relationships, physical health, even the ability to look after themselves. It’s incredibly satisfying to help someone get their life back, watch them regain their skills and give them hope and aspirations.
I also do lots of training on mental health issues. I presented at a conference hosted by the National Association of Psychiatric Intensive Care Units, and was recently appointed honorary lecturer at City University. It’s amazing how much confidence this career can give you. Ten years ago I never thought I’d give a lecture to 200 people. Now, I feel I can do anything and talk to anyone.
Friends of mine in accounting and banking say they’ve never changed someone’s life for the better. I have. On Sundays, they dread going to work the next day. I can’t wait. So if you’re looking at career options, find out more about nursing. The biggest shame of all would be to overlook such a fantastic career opportunity, with all its life-changing experiences.
My budget is just over £2 million. I never imagined I’d be responsible for so much.