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ROLE MODEL

'I gave it all up to train as a nurse. And I’m so much the richer for it'

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Jonny Briggs gave up a well-paid job in a bank to pursue his lifelong ambition of being a nurse.

Imagine being able to buy what you wanted, when you wanted, driving around in a BMW and going on holiday when and where you fancied.

“I had all of that,” says Jonny Briggs, cardiac intensive care staff nurse at Papworth hospital in Cambridgeshire. “Earning a pretty decent wedge with all the trappings. But it became meaningless. I gave it all up to train as a nurse. And I’m so much the richer for it.”

Mr Briggs was a manager for a high-street bank until he was in his mid-30s, when he pursued his lifelong ambition of being a nurse.

“I had wanted to get into nursing for some time, but having a young family meant I couldn’t afford the pay drop,” he says. “But then my relationship unfortunately ended and I decided to make the change. It was tough living on the breadline and having to save up to buy things on a student bursary.

“But I felt richer, better off when training, even happier when I qualified and on top of the world when I got my dream job at Papworth.

Before training, he worked for a couple of years as a healthcare assistant “to make sure this significant change in vocation was something I should and could pursue - it’s not for everyone”.

He had considered working in intensive care after his last three-month placement in a general ICU, but it was during an informal visit to see Papworth’s cardiothoracic unit that his desire to work in the specialty was confirmed.

“What I love about intensive care is that you manage the patient one on one, and you know how they respond, you’re incredibly involved with all aspects of care and completely focused on them,” he says.

“Yes, you see people who are acutely unwell and may not survive but our survival rates are very good. And you can titrate drugs, start a whole range of therapeutic interventions and see instantaneous results of that, and feel very much part of their care and their outcome.

“I’ve seen some spectacular recoveries. I have sometimes come off shift, preparing a patient and their relatives and indeed myself for the worst, then I return 24 hours later, and they are more alert and so much better. That’s what makes this job incredible.”

Knowing that healthcare provision is unequal around the world has made him want to take his skills farther afield. Next month he is heading to Kenya, to work as part of Camps International healthcare outreach programme.

Mr Briggs, along with doctors, other nurses and allied healthcare professionals, will spend two weeks in the rural village of Makongeni. He will also work in community clinics, provide nutritional support for the old and infirm and help administer deworming drugs to children.

“At Papworth, I loved what I saw instantly and I know I am in a great hospital, but I know that access to such a great hospital is not the case nationwide, and definitely not internationally.

“This is a chance to really open my eyes, develop my understanding and a get a whole new perspective.”

Back in this country, Mr Briggs is fascinated with learning additional skills too. He has just been successful in clinching a band 7 hybrid role working as a donor care physiologist. This extends his role with the insertion of neck lines, including central venous pressure lines, arterial lines and pulmonary artery catheters, mechanical ventilation and intubation.

“I am going to be one of only six healthcare professionals with this role in the world. There’s a lot to learn, plenty of new skills, some of which will be transferable back to the unit, helping to augment and facilitate the care of patients further.

“The role was previously undertaken by anaesthetist registrars but, with the extended role of the nurse and the working time directive, times are changing and some great opportunities are opening up for nurses.”

Jonny Briggs will tell us more about his experiences in Kenya upon his return.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • I thought Jonny Briggs was the guy who saved mankind (well the aliens anyway, rescued people from a bomb during WWII and saw dead people in a cemetry before the council tried to knock it down? Now you are a nurse as well as an ex banker - you certainly have a varied career

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  • I though Jonny Briggs was the the young boy the 80s children's programme who played the tumpet and got picked on by his older siblings all the time.

    You're looking well on it!

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  • Wasn't he one of the Great Train Robbers?

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