I have come to nursing later than some – but not as late as others – following a change of career. After gaining my first degree in electronic engineering the University of Surrey, I worked in the industry for five years. I realised that while I was quite good at my job, it was not keeping me interested and I had no ambition to progress.
Sitting at a computer for seven and a half hours a day can do that to you. Many of my friends at Surrey were nurses and through them, my involvement with St John Ambulance, but most influentially with an illness in the family, I thought of nursing as the varied career I needed to keep me on my toes.
I applied to many universities for degree and diploma courses, eventually deciding on UWE and a diploma course after an interviewer at Surrey convinced me there was no point having a 'second first degree'. I am now in my final year, having completed two years, four clinical placements, a handful of exams and many essays. I occasionally work as a healthcare assistant, which I still enjoy now as much as on my first day.
Before I started my university course I applied for a job as a bank HCA in my local hospital, just to see what I was letting myself in for. I will always remember the interviewer asking me one question: ‘There are two patients needing your attention, one hasn't had a wash yet this morning, one died earlier in the day and needs last offices, but you are due a break – what are you going to do first?’
I replied that I would go for my break, as I am not the only person working on the ward, and if I hadn't had a break I might not be working at my best. (Since then I have, of course, found myself putting off my tea break many times, as well as coming back early.) I suppose I must have done something right, as I was offered the job there and then. So a few weeks later I joined a week-long 'foundation course' teaching us the basics of manual handling, infection control, communication, nutrition and pressure ulcer prevention.
But I was left still not knowing what to expect from my first day – only a feeling that I was sure it would be interesting. For the first few shifts my new employers like new staff to work in an elderly care ward, and to be honest my first thoughts were that I didn't want to work with old people – how boring – I wanted to do exciting stuff!
I went in, met the staff, met the patients and had the best day at work I have ever had – from the first soiled bed to the last dirty bum, the day whizzed by and I loved it.
Whenever I can I still try to return to that same ward, all the staff work really well together, and I felt everyone valued my input. I don't think I could have had a better introduction to my nursing career.