Nursing has always been a massive part of my life: my mum trained as a general nurse, then did her paediatric conversion, and laterally trained as a midwife, before becoming a neonatal intensive care nurse, where she worked for over 25 years. She would take my siblings and me up to visit the babies in the hospital, especially at Christmas time. I have very fond memories of those visits to Yorkhill Sick Children’s Hospital in Glasgow, which is sadly no longer there.
I knew from that young age that I wanted to work in healthcare; that I wanted to help sick people get better. At that time, I wanted to go into medicine, to be a doctor. I had a toy doctor’s kit, collected the “How My Body Works” books, which included a human anatomy model you got to build piece-by-piece, and I had an unquenchable thirst for information. I was set on becoming a doctor; it never entered my head to be a nurse. It was never suggested to me – not at school, not by careers advisors, not even by my mum and her nurse colleagues. Why? Worryingly, I think because I was a boy. Nursing wasn’t something to aspire towards. Nursing was a “girl’s job”. Also, if you got good grades at school, which I worked hard to achieve, then you were too “clever” for nursing, and you should push yourself to something harder, where the pay was better. I wish I could say that this has changed since I was in high school, 16 years ago, but I don’t think it has.
Anyway, I got the grades to apply to university to study medicine, but as I have mentioned in previous blogs, I moved to London, aged 18, to pursue a career in acting; quite the career shift, I know. While I don’t regret the time I spent in London, and it has given me many transferable skills, in addition to lots of stories, I missed academia. I missed using my brain, and I felt unfulfilled in my chosen career.
Fast-forward to early 2016, aged 30. I had recently moved back to Glasgow after 12 and a half years in London. What was I going to do with the rest of my life? I spoke to my mum about this at length. I knew I wanted to work in a profession where I could make a difference, but also after years of insecurity in the acting world; I wanted to have a career where there was constant work.
I started volunteering as a nursing assistant at Medicinema, a charity based in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital complex in Glasgow. It is an in-house cinema, where patients are brought in from the wards to watch the most recent cinema releases. They are taken care of by nurses and nursing assistants who volunteer their time. I loved it. I enjoyed talking to the patients and their families and seeing how happy this experience made them. These patients were in such a vulnerable place in the hospital, and something as simple as coming to the cinema and having a chat with me as I brought them over to the cinema from the wards helped to brighten their day. I discovered my years in acting had allowed me to develop my communication and interpersonal skills. These skills coupled with what I believe is an innate compassionate and empathetic quality I possess, made me think that I could be a nurse. Why not?
I had toyed with the idea of trying to get back into medicine; but the more I volunteered at Medicinema, talked to the nurses, and spent time with the patients, the more I realised I wanted to be a nurse. I believed as a nurse I would be able to have more one-to-one contact with patients where I could get to know them and follow them on their journey. I researched nursing roles more and was interested in the advanced nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist roles. Nursing had evolved so much, and more than ever, there is a wealth of varied career opportunities and progressions. These opportunities excited me. So, I decided to apply to be a nurse.
As my school and university qualifications were out of date, having graduated in 2006, I had to apply for a college course first, to prove I was able to work at the necessary academic level. In August 2016, I began my HNC in Care and Administrative Practice at Glasgow Clyde College. Based on my grades, statement, and interview, I was then successful in gaining a place on a widening access programme, which allowed me to articulate directly into the second year of the BSc Nursing Studies (Adult) course at Glasgow Caledonian University.
So, it’s been a long and winding route for me to get into nursing, and I think I’m a better nurse for it with my extra life experience. The additional life experience that can come with being a mature student is why I think it’s unforgivable that the scrapping of the bursary in England is leading to a decrease in mature nursing students. We have a lot to offer, and it is a loss to the profession. I would also like to hark back to my earlier point: why was I, a young boy passionate about going into healthcare, not encouraged to go into nursing at school? This is a problem, and it is something I passionately believe we need to change and am currently advocating for. I think the nursing workforce should be as diverse as the communities we serve, and that we should be encouraging all who possess the necessary values and academic abilities to become nurses, regardless of gender.