I was delighted to be nominated for the RCN specialist nursing award this year. A colleague asked if she could nominate me because she felt that running my nurse led diagnostic, follow up and counselling clinics and leading the service that Breast care patients receive was wonderful. A friend of both of us had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and had experienced the journey through to diagnosis in my clinic and it was at this point that she realised how nurses with advanced clinical skills can make a real difference. She was also nominating me for doing my PhD at this grand old age and being successful in getting a Florence Nightingale research scholarship this year. My nominator put together a very moving, complimentary summary of my achievements to date and why she felt I should receive the Nurse of the year award.
Following submission to the Royal college of Nursing judges, I was shortlisted for an interview and had to present my work and achievements over the last 20 years but especially the last year to a panel of senior nurses, academics and Welsh Assembly government members. Although it was really strange presenting what I had done in breast care since taking up post in 1991 and I felt like I was showing off, it also brought it home to me how much of my nursing career I have devoted to the speciality and what I have actually achieved. The panel were delighted and I came out feeling really positive. A few days later I had a letter to say I was a finalist at City Hall on the 28th November. That in itself was a great feeling and the fact that somebody had taken the time and effort to write a statement about my work and dedication to nursing was amazing. I didn’t realise that there was a winner and a runner up for each category at the awards and in total there were 9 different categories but when I heard this, I was sure I would be the runner up of my category because there is so much extraordinary work being conducted by all grades of nursing staff across Wales and I was so grateful just to be there.
The evening at City Hall was absolutely fantastic. The food was delicious, the company was excellent and there was a very warm friendly atmosphere. The RCN had really gone the extra mile to make this first Welsh Nurse of the Year a real success. Everybody dressed up in their best frocks and the highlight of the evening was Jason Mohammad the compare. He was both funny and very pleasant to the eye. That said, I’m probably old enough to be his mum! Nevertheless, I found myself queuing with all the other ladies for a photo with him!! My husband definitely saw a different side to me that night!
The real highlight of the night was when they called out my name as the winner of the specialist award. I was truly delighted and overwhelmed. Sheila Hunt and Ruth Walker Nurse Executive Cardiff and Vale were the first to congratulate me and it was great to have them there to see it. I was on a high for the rest of the week and the week ended with our annual breast ball again at City Hall where all my team congratulated me and gave a public announcement in front of past and present patients. This again was an amazing feeling. I could get quite used to the life of being a celebrity!!
I’m in the mood now for winning and so next year I’m hoping that somebody will nominate me for the research and innovation award because anything’s possible!
When I first told a colleague I was thinking of doing a PhD she replied “you’re too old to do a PhD”! My first reaction was “How old do you think I am?” and then I thought “I’ll show you who’s too old”.
There was however a part of me who then thought, maybe I am too old and why put myself through the torture and stress of trying to combine a full time job, a family and the pressure of a part time PhD.Thats me all over. I’m not content with a calm, stress free life. I need a challenge and this is the ultimate one. I think as long as you have the motivation to do it and you’re really keen on the research you are about to embark upon, the rest will come with hard grafting and good support. Plus I love the student discount card as does my daughter because we go to see lots more films now. My husband however, thinks I have lost the plot as he is retiring next year and had plans for us to live a life of leisure and luxury. I work in clinical practice for 2 days of the week and my clinics are hectic! I rarely come up for air and may see up to 20 patients in a day, all with complex needs and so the PhD is a great distraction and believe it or not, not as stressful as my clinical work.
Where possible, I race off to all the available study days run by the graduate office (which I thoroughly recommend) and I’m always running late. Good job I am pretty fit and run a lot outside of work life! I grab a seat with all the students who are young enough to be my daughter or son and I listen tentatively. The giveaway is the dated clothing although I am trying to look like a student!! Surprisingly, I grasp what they and the lecturers are talking about. At my age concentration and attention to detail varies from day to day. I may be embarking on the old hormone replacement therapy (HRT) soon in desperation to improve these!! During the various study days I attend, I take note after note trying to take it all in and come out of the session both inspired and scared. Inspired because it sounds so easy and exciting but scared because I only have 1 day a week to try and get it all done. This means the nights are spent reading and thinking about the research with little else entering my mind. It definitely consumes you and because I’m part time, I feel I have to do extra work. That said, I love it and I look forward to my holidays and time with my family. I think it’s really important to take time out and not lose sight that there are others in your life especially if they can help you! My 8 year old daughter is better on the computer then I am and this is a major advantage. My IT skills are definitely in need of improvement to say the least and part of my learning has been around this. I have only really used a computer for the last few years and struggle with all the various options but I’m on the case and without my PhD colleagues Jess, Cath and Dominic I would never have managed. My naiveness and lack of computer knowledge was highlighted a few weeks ago when I thought Dominic’s foot rest was either a foot massager or the transciber for my interviews. I even thought it was wireless as it didn’t have a lead attached!!
I would recommend meeting up with fellow PhD Students even if you are part time. I usually work on my own, eat on my own, train on my own and I am so used to sorting things out myself that you miss out on what others can help with and indeed what you can help them with. I have one day a week where I work alongside the other full time students and it’s great not merely because they are great fun but you can check things out and feel reassured that what you are feeling and thinking others are too!