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So what do you want to be when you qualify?

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25 years after graduating, Rebecca Dowle reflects on how her life - and the lives of her fellow students - played out quite differently than each one had envisaged. 

rebecca dowleRebecca Dowle

Social media has its faults and detractors, but when used to get in touch with people that you haven’t seen for over 25 years, well, it becomes more than a platform for self-celebration! 

When I started my nurse training in September 1987 in the Cheltenham and Gloucester School of Nursing, I had no clue where I would be in 30 years’ time.

Life got in the way of keeping in touch with my peers, and gradually many of us lost contact.

There were 11 of us based in Gloucester Royal Hospital, ten are seen here in the picture with our tutor, Miss Bird.

We are fresh faced and ready to forge our careers. This year, as 30 years has passed since we first started, we reached out via the internet to see how many in the picture we could find, so far nine of us are back in contact… 

class of 87

Back to front, left to right: Sandra Bradley, Del Griffiths, Julie Palmer, Becky Dowle, Miss Bird, Sarah Beard, Vicky Preece, Jo Newhall, Jeremy Leat, Helen Wanless & Suzanne Davies – behind the camera, Sarah Lock. 

At this moment there are two left to find, but are we where we thought we would be? The answer is pretty much a resounding no - with a few exceptions. 

Sandra now lives in Australia, she wanted to be a wound specialist - and that’s precisely what she’s been doing for 17 years. She was a lab tech before we started, so maybe had more insight! 

Del wanted to nurse physically disabled young adults, she is now a clinical nurse specialist in multiple sclerosis and has spoken in parliament - and internationally - about her work. She is also chair of the UK MS Nurse Association.

Vicky was drawn to surgical nursing and is now a stoma care nurse specialist, currently on the committee for the Association of Stoma Care Nurses UK.

Julie was drawn to medicine initially, but now works in a family run funeral directors where she has transferred her nursing skills into caring for the deceased and their families. Julie is still doing her bit for the NHS as her daughter is currently applying to be a registered mental health nurse. 

Jo, wanted to be a sick children’s nurse, she did her RSCN training and worked in paediatrics for a few years, moved to Spain and taught English, and then returned to practice. Jo now works as a Practice Nurse.

Helen knew she didn’t want to be a district nurse when she qualified. Typilcally enough, Helen is now passionate about district nursing! She manages a team and sees nursing people in their own homes as a privilege.

And that leaves me, Becky. I wanted to work in occupational health. Instead I have worked in a variety of roles from community to recovery, the constant was my love of teaching, and now I am teaching nursing students in Swansea University.

At the time of writing I have yet to find out the rest of the stories but hope to be able to soon.

So, if you are starting out in your career and think that you know where you will end up chances are that you are wrong!

But, that isn’t a bad thing. Our message to you from the Group of September ’87 is this: be open to the opportunities that are there for you, don’t pigeon-hole yourself as a specific ‘type’ of nurse. You can surprise yourself. Most of all enjoy every moment - just as we have.

Written by Rebecca J Dowle RGN, FHEA who is a clinical nurse tutor for Swansea University – striving to instil excellence in the next generation! Contact:

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