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My transition into nursing was a late one, I didn’t start my training until I was 35 years old. I did not really know what I wanted to do when I left school. My mum had been a nurse however when I was youngster I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to clean up vomit and wipe bottoms (as that’s all I thought nursing involved).

As I got older, I enjoyed the party scene so worked within the pubs and clubs in Grimsby and Cleethorpes. I was just having too much fun to even think about going to college to improve myself and unlock any potential that would allow me to have a meaningful career.

It is not until you have children that your priorities change. I was a stay at home mum initially and as the children got older, I started working as a carer in community. It surprised me how much I enjoyed this roll, although you are only given a limited time at each service users house, I always spent more time just chatting to everyone. Some people were so lonely, you could see how much they appreciated the company of someone to chat to (I believe that this was a start to my journey.)

 In 2000 I moved to Northamptonshire and unfortunately became unwell.

I had not been well for a while, despite going to the doctors on numerous occasions I was told there was nothing wrong and all my blood tests and samples had come back normal. It was not until I was finally admitted to hospital that I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. What a relief!

I wasn’t going crazy and wasn’t the hypochondriac that I had been made to believe I was. Initially this was well controlled with medication and for a while I felt well, for the first time in ages.

Sadly, this did not last Long my health started to deteriorate once more the pain was excruciating. Again, I was admitted to hospital and there I stayed for 6 weeks. Following surgery to have my large intestine removed, I started to feel a lot better. It was while I was recuperating that I started helping other patients. The nurses were a little stretched even then. I would help walk them to the toilet, help them with meals when they could not manage, sat, and talked to them when they were afraid or missed their families. This is when I started to realise that actually, there was so much more to nursing than just wiping bottoms.

I had found that out during my time as a carer but as a patient watching the nurses, I realised it was so much more. Following further surgeries and episodes in the hospital I decided that as soon as I was well again, I wanted to start my Nurse training. My first step was to complete my Access to health as it had been a while since I had completed any courses. I was no spring chicken at this time and once enrolled I wondered if I would be able pass the course. Imagine my amazement when I did pass and even more of a surprise gained my place at Northampton University.

First person in my family to go to Uni, so no pressure there then.  I was so nervous I thought that I would be the oldest student to on the course, as by this time I was already 35 years old. How wrong was i?

 There was a mix of all ages which put me at ease immediately, I wasn’t the only one that embarked on a career late on in life. The only problem was, the jump in the level of study required from college assignments to those at degree level, I had never been the sharpest tool in the box, so how was I ever going to graduate? Being a single parent of two young children, working shifts and having to complete assignments on time, it was hard work and at times I really felt like giving it all up on many occasions. I was lucky that I had a good friend and the family who helped with childcare, continually supporting me when I needed a boost. When I felt particularly low my friend who lived next door, how convenient, would bring me bacon butties and give me a good talking to, which always did the trick.

 Also, my mum always telling me to stop moaning and get on with it. I come from a working-class northern family, they don’t stand for any nonsense, and do not allow you to feel sorry for yourself. You ae expected to pull yourself together and get on with it and I’m grateful for that. As a nurse it helped me through some very difficult times.

I finally graduated in 2006 BSc (Hons) in adult nursing, oh my goodness what an achievement I could not believe I’d actually done it. The feeling of pride was overwhelming, once more my children were proud of me, which just made the day even more special.

Unfortunately for me at this time there just happened to be a job freeze so hospitals weren’t taking new staff, banks weren’t taking anybody on. So, for a while I didn’t think I was going to get a position anywhere, I was beginning to feel that all my training had been a waste of time, but I’d invested too much to give up. So many of the nurses that had qualified with me, found jobs outside of the nursing profession or went to work in nursing homes.

As much as I had loved caring within the community, I wanted to work in a hospital. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had my heart set on being a stoma nurse as mine had been amazing inspiring me to keep going.

Finally, at the end of 2006 I finally was offered a post at Bedford hospital on a Gastrointestinal surgical ward which was perfect for me. Finally, I had achieved my goal, I had become a Nurse after so much hard work and doubt. It just goes to show what you are capable of when you put your mind to it, you just need determination and hard work to achieve your dream.

I was just embarking on a new chapter of my life and I was so excited. 14 years later I am now on a new adventure and I am every bit as passionate as when I first started.

Written by Gill Smith ( ECG Clinical Trainer), Tuesday 19th January 2021