Apprentice joiner at a shipyard, building firm owner, and clinical nurse specialist for learning disabilities. Brian Evans’ CV is not short on variety.
At the age of 35, clinical nurse specialist, Brian Evans, made the transition from builder to health care worker — a change sparked by personal tragedy. Before he’d even considered a career in nursing, he and his wife, Lorraine, had a son who was born 13 weeks premature. This resulted in a number of health issues, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and moderate learning disability.
Mr Evans worked in a local shipyard at the time, and later set up his own building firm, but when his son passed away in 2001, he decided his career was supposed to take a different path, eventually leading to his current role as a learning disabilities nurse.
“He was a fantastic little boy,” Mr Evans says. “We were devastated. I realised that I can’t make a difference for my little boy anymore, but I can for everyone else.”
So, he began to research.
“I realised that I can’t make a difference for my little boy anymore, but I can for everyone else”
“I looked around on the internet for something I could do,” Mr Evans says. “I learned there was a thing called ‘learning disability nursing’, so I applied.”
He welcomed the change in lifestyle. But Mr Evans had to re-adjust to a schedule that involved studying. “I had not done anything academic for a number of years, and initially I found it quite difficult,” he says.
But he never doubted he was making the right choice and his positive attitude helped him adapt.
“What motivated me was my family, really,” he says. “My wife and my son. We didn’t know about learning disability nursing and that there was support available.” In addition to his family, Mr Evans tells me he was driven by his desire to advocate for patients and “enlighten society to the needs and rights of individuals with learning disabilities”.
“It was something that I felt was my vocation, and something I needed to do to make a difference,” he explains.
But in 2003 — in the middle of his nurse training — Mr Evans was diagnosed with cancer and underwent intense treatment. His drive to make a positive impact and contribution to others’ lives never faltered; following treatment he returned to this training and qualified in September 2004.
“I’m doing this to raise awareness of the needs of peoples with learning disabilities”
Mr Evans explains he wants to ensure that people with learning disabilities have the same access to facilities as the general population.
“I’m not doing this for myself,” he says. “I’m doing this to raise awareness of the needs of peoples with learning disabilities.”
In his current role at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, Mr Evans works alongside a variety of healthcare professionals including GPs, community learning disability teams, social services, families and advocacy services. He discusses the person’s specific needs with this multidisciplinary team, and then gathers suggestions on how to ensure they receive person-centred treatment when that person comes into hospital.
Ensuring patients with learning disabilities receive treatment that meets their specific needs is particularly important to Mr Evans. After losing his son following a complication at a hospital, Mr Evans has been motivated to help shape care through his brand new role at Morecambe Bay where he advocates for people with learning disabilities.
“Making sure people are included and not excluded — this job allows me to do that,” he says.
“I don’t do it for any sort of gratification,” he tells me again, showing how important altruism is in his role. “I do it so peoples’ lives are better. That’s the biggest thing from my perspective. When people get access to services they’re entitled to, I feel I’ve done something right.”
“When people get access to services they’re entitled to, I feel I’ve done something right”
Despite major adversity, Mr Evans doesn’t look at his experiences as a sad story, he tells me these events have shaped his life to where he is now.
“I like to think good things have blossomed from tragedy, and I’m making the world a better place for the people I support,” Mr Evans says. “I’m a strong advocate and very tenacious. I am passionate about my job, and I love it.”
How do I get to be you?
The first thing to note is that there aren’t many of this job role! I am incredibly fortunate to be in a position where my experience and qualifications define the role, not the other way round, but I didn’t wake up one day with a clear career path laid out in front of me.
Do not underestimate the importance of everything you’ve done before nursing – it’s all relevant.
Although working in a shipyard is never going to be essential experience for a nursing role, my life experience has helped me to develop skills that I still use every day, such as working well in a team, communication and an understanding of the different skills and qualities people bring to the table.
I’ve also learnt that it’s ok to be patient-first in your career. If you spot a need for a service that isn’t offered, you can make that service happen – but you must be prepared to overcome obstacles and keep your end goal in sight.