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Real life stories - Practice development sister

Pat trained as a nurse in her 30s and gained experience during 12 years in the cardiac intensive care unit.

Name: Pat Whittingham

Job title: Practice development sister, Blackpool Victoria Hospital New Lancashire Cardiac Centre

Entry route: cadetship, deferred training


I started nursing initially as a cadet when I was 16, and started my nurse training when I was 18 but I didn’t complete the course at that time because I went to Australia and worked in different industries. I came back to England, and in 1986, I answered an advertisement in the local paper for an auxiliary school nurse/health visitor. While I was in that post, my nurse manager encouraged me to do more training, as she said I had plenty of potential.

I completed my nurse training in 1993 and during the next 12 years, I went from being a novice nurse to an expert nurse in the cardiac intensive care unit at Blackpool, going from a newly qualified staff nurse to sister. I progressed to practice development sister for the cardiac ward areas, covering the cardiothoracic and the cardiology wards. I enjoy the whole concept of working with the heart - it’s fascinating. There are very few days that go by where I don’t learn from something that’s happened.

No days are typical but I mainly support student nurses in the area. I orientate and organise training programmes for new starters to the ward clinical area; I support and assess staff on post-registration courses, cardiology courses and high-dependency courses. Teamwork is critical - you have to be able to fit in and learn from one another. I find it rewarding when, not only patients, but also the staff say that I’ve supported them and that it is obvious I care about them.

You need to have faith in yourself that you can do the job. Between 1981 and 1986 I was a cleaner at a local government building and it wasn’t until I was 37 that I went on to do my training - I qualified when I was 40.