How did I end up doing a PhD?

I became a nurse relatively late in life. I had spent sixteen years in local government and it looked like I was going to spend another sixteen (and more) when I had my epiphany. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for the council. I wanted to be a nurse. I was lucky enough to find myself at a point in my life where I could take a chance on a new career move and so I made the break and handed in my notice. It was as terrifying as it was exhilarating!

I managed to get a job in a local nursing home as a carer and I also started work on my application to UCAS for the nursing degree course. I was eventually offered a place by Swansea University and set off to Singleton to make my fortune. What has happened since has been the most incredible journey for me. I have seen a world that I didn’t even know existed, the highs coming as thick and fast as the lows to start with. I will never forget my first shift as long as I live. Scary stuff!

I absolutely loved my training – it was a struggle to start, I will admit. The first year of university was a real challenge – I’d not been in a classroom for over ten years. But once I began to understand what was expected of me in the classroom (and how to write an essay), it became easier(ish). The learning opportunities I had as a student nurse on placement were incredible – so much going on, so many things to get involved in. I spent time in theatres, rehabilitation, orthopaedics, community nursing and much more. That was a chance in a lifetime experience which I like to think I grabbed with both hands. Yes, it wasn’t always smooth sailing and being a student nurse was not always an easy role for me, but the way the course was structured meant that there was always an end in sight if things were a little tough. I learned to take what I could from these experiences, good and bad, and move on a little older and a little wiser (hopefully).

I came to work in Cardiff when I qualified and when I think about my first staff nurse post I still get a warm glow. (However, the cynic in me likes to remind me that perhaps is wasn’t always warm and fuzzy.) As much as I was enjoying my new career, I had also been bitten by the learning bug. I stayed on at Swansea University, studying public health and partnerships in care, while nursing in Cardiff. As that course was coming to an end, I found myself thinking what could I do next?

I was advised me to speak to the PhD programme director at Swansea University and we discussed out my areas of interest and what research ideas I might have. We found that we shared some common research interests and he agreed to act as my supervisor, helping me to prepare a research proposal and make funding applications. The best advice I could give to anyone trying to secure funding for a PhD is to persevere and believe in yourself. It is highly competitive and I experienced setbacks and rejections, but I was determined to get there. That my supervisor had confidence in me (and was experienced in funding applications!) was also a great help. I was awarded a NISCHR Studentship in 2011. A real bonus was that securing this studentship meant that I was able to study my own research topic – patient involvement in safer surgery initiatives.

I started my PhD in Swansea University April 2011 and transferred to Cardiff University SONMS in October 2011. I will be handing in my Big Book in March 2014. If everything goes to plan.

I have to pinch myself sometimes that I have been able to do so much in the last few years. I was hopeful that nursing would present me with some opportunities, but I never thought it would lead to me doing a PhD.

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