Sarah Dawkins practices as a nurse, teaches nursing and runs her own consultancy. Since stepping outside of her comfort zone in 2012, leaving her nursing job with the NHS to become a consultant, she hasn’t looked back. Here, Sarah explains how her nursing career has evolved. The journey she’s taken has earned her a second place in a national entrepreneur competition and visit to Number 10 to meet David Cameron. by

What were you doing before you started nursing

Before I started my Nurse training, I tried many things, from cleaning, child-minding, silver-service waitressing, bingo calling, bookkeeping, receptionist and barmaid and personal assistant to the Chief Executive Officer as I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up!!

What made you want to train to become a nurse?

My Mum was a Nurse, so you could say it was in my genes. I have always had a caring personality and enjoy helping others. There are many people that need an advocate and nursing was a way to help others.

Did you have a part-time job while you studied - if so, what is it?

The bursary of £4000 was not a liveable salary, so I took two agency jobs, working as a healthcare assistant in many different establishments at the weekend. I was sent out to Nursing Homes with needy elderly and dementia patients. It helped link the theory I learnt at University to practice. 

What have you learned about people whilst doing your job?

Being a Nurse allows you to interact with many different types of people, from patients, visitors, other Nurses, Doctors, Consultants as well as ancillary staff within the care setting. You have to be able to deal with many situations you find yourself in. Being professional and empathic is a must, although at times it is not easy.

What did your day yesterday consist of - what are your day-to-day chores / responsibilities and expectations?

Yesterday, I was teaching care of the deteriorating patient to nursing students. This involved a powerpoint session followed by group work with different scenarios. It’s great to see the students learn and grow their knowledge. My other roles include clinical work (bank/agency), medico-legal work, DNA sampling, selling some guidelines that I have written and published for PACU Nurses to extubate their own patients and I love to inspire people to follow their dreams. 

What would you say to someone who’s considering a career in nursing / health / care / medicine?

Nursing is a diverse profession. I would recommend anyone that thinks they want to be a Nurse to go for it. As a student Nurse, you will get experience in a range of areas that will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. The skills learnt are transferrable into many roles, as I have proved. 

Where would you like your career to take you?

My career has already taken me into business, starting my own consultancy in 2012. It’s a great feeling to own my own business and undertake the work that I want to, when I want to. It gives me both flexibility and diversity. I undertake consultancy and freelance work. In November 2014, I won second prize in a national entrepreneur competition and went to meet David Cameron, inside 10 Downing Street, London. It was a great achievement.

What are the challenges you face?

The biggest challenge that I faced was leaving a permanent, “safe” job in the NHS to go it alone and set up my own business, not knowing if I would get any work or how to run a business. However, I used social media and local networking events to grow both my self-confidence as well as learn how to sell myself.

Public speaking was not something that I was comfortable with, so I went to some Toastmaster classes. It helped me overcome some of my fears.

A quote that I have lived by for the past few years it that of Henry Ford, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. The only way to learn and grow is to step outside your comfort zone, regularly.