My second child had just been born when I discovered a free Access to Nursing course was starting nearby. Having worked in nursing homes and been frustrated by the limited level of care I could give, this seemed too good to pass up.
I began the course shortly after my baby was born and was supported with a childcare allowance. Then I gained my adult nursing diploma, supported by a bursary that meant I could qualify debt-free. Even so, it wasn’t the financial support that made me decide to train as a nurse – it was the chance to gain a lifelong career.
My first year as a qualified nurse was on a busy cancer ward, caring for acutely ill patients. I quickly learned to manage my workload to stay focused on patient care, and to think on my feet. It was very challenging meeting new patients, managing chemotherapy and handling all the physical, social and emotional issues that accompany it. Incredibly rewarding too, but you have to be extremely organised to coordinate the high volume of testing, monitoring and treatment cancer patients need.
After such an intense environment, I spent the next year in orthopaedic outpatients with higher numbers of less acute patients. It was a good chance to experience a very different style of nursing in a different setting.
Now I’m doing something completely different again, as a relief community nurse. Each morning I go to an assigned location anywhere in Gloucester and pick up my caseload. In a typical morning I’ll visit up to eight patients in their own home, a clinic or a nursing home. No two days are alike.
Community nursing is a world away from hospital nursing. Observing and listening to patients in their own environment can help you pick up on other relevant issues. Every day, your knowledge, teaching and influencing skills are tested as you educate patients about the consequences of their choices.
Having worked in many different roles before becoming a nurse, I can honestly say it’s great to finally have so much variety in one job. My work-life balance is good; I work 9am-2pm, four weekdays out of seven, with one weekend a month. Most of all, I enjoy coming home knowing that I’ve done something worthwhile and made a positive impact on someone’s life.
To anyone who might consider nursing as a career, I’d say try it: get some experience so you are realistic about what to expect, and don’t be put off by the thought of taking a degree or diploma. See it as a way of getting where you want to be.