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  • 12 November 2021
  • 11 min read

My Experience Of Becoming A Nurse At 48

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    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
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  • 9983
Play video: "Though the lockdown was lifted, a lot of my customers were older and just weren't able to return to the same way of life as before."

After the closure of her cafe, Janet fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a Nurse. Having completed her first year, she outlines her experience with advice for those considering a similar move.

Topics covered in this article


At 16, I Didn’t Feel Grown Up Enough To Be A Nurse

The Pandemic Forced Me To Close My Cafe

I Applied Through ‘Clearing’

I Began My Nursing Course In January 2021

I Had To Really Brush Up On My Maths & Writing Skills

There’s Support If You’ve Been Out Of Education For A While

Remote Learning Suited Me Quite Well

I Found There Was Lots Of Variety With The Course

It Is Never Too Late To Start Nursing

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Hello, my name is Janet Dalton. I'm a first-year Student Nurse.

And I'd like to tell you a little bit about why I wanted to become a Nurse at the grand old age of 48.

I'll tell you a bit about how I became a student and how my first year has gone.

At 16, I Didn’t Feel Grown Up Enough To Be A Nurse

When I was 16, 18, I felt like I wanted to be a Nurse, but I just didn't feel ready.

I didn't feel grown up enough and I wasn't, some people are ready at that age, but I wasn't one of those people.

So I went to university and I study sociology and politics.

And then I did a postgraduate diploma in careers advice.

And I did that because I was looking for other ways that I could help people, which I felt were less risky.

So for the next 25 years, I worked on and off as a careers advisor, I also worked for the police as a civilian for five years, and I've been a dog groomer for the last 15 years.

I pretty much followed the same philosophy as I advised other people to do, which was to give things a try, be open minded, work hard for what you want, even if it seems a bit outlandish, if it's what you want to do, give it your best shot.

So in 2018, the next dream that I set out to follow was having my own coffee shop in a seaside town, which was meant to set me up for the rest of my days, I would work hard for the next 20 years.

And then I would sit drinking coffee for the next 20 years, holding court.

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The Pandemic Forced Me To Close My Cafe

So I did all my risk assessments as any good business person should.

We weighed up all the pros and cons.

I did my SWOT analysis and considered all the possible things that could go wrong, except one.

And funnily enough, in 2018, I didn't think to put pandemic on the list.

So I lost the coffee shop in 2020, because even though the lockdown was lifted, a lot of my customers were older and just weren't able to return to the same way of life as before.

I've done a lot of different things in the last 25 years, but all through those years, whenever I reached a decision point, I still had this little voice in my head saying, you should be a Nurse.

And finally, this time I could actually listen to that voice.

And I knew that I had the opportunity to do it.

I Applied Through ‘Clearing’

This was August, 2020 and being a former careers advisor, I knew that universities were filling their spare places through a process called clearing.

What I didn't know was whether I would need to do something like an access course before I could apply.

And because I'd been out of education for a long time, and maybe I didn't have enough of a science background.

So I rang the university and got to speak to someone on the admissions team.

And they asked me about myself and my qualifications.

And they advised me to apply straight away through clearing.

And I was offered a place to start either September, 2020, or January, 2021.

Now every university makes their own decisions about entrance requirements.

So you need to find out what the entry requirements are for the universities that you're interested in.

You might not have to do a Nursing access course, or they might ask you to do that.

And it'll depend on what your recent qualifications are like, whether you've got any science qualifications for certain universities, or they may just offer you a place.

As I said, I went through clearing because it was that time of year but if it had been any other time of year, I could just have gone through the regular UCAS process, which is how most people get their places at university.

There are lots of ways to get onto a Nursing course.

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I Began My Nursing Course In January 2021

I decided to wait till January, 2021 to start my course because I knew that there would be a lot of work closing down my cafe.

And also because I felt like I needed time to come to terms with that happening.

But you're the reason I waited was because I felt that at the age of 47, as I was then, and being out of formal education for such a long time, I wanted to spend some time brushing upon some of my learning skills.

I'd done my research into Nursing, I knew that there would be some math content, something called reflective writing, which I hadn't done before.

And also the academic writing for essays, which I hadn't done in a long time either.

I Had To Really Brush Up On My Maths & Writing Skills

Now my math skills are pretty basic to say the least, I can just about cope if I concentrate.

But of course, as a Nurse, you're using maths in drug calculations and administering drugs.

So don't be scared by this, but yes, it's important to get it right, and yes, there is a test that you have to pass with 100%, but there's a lot of support to help you get through the test and you do a lot of practice.

And actually, the maths isn't that hard.

It's pretty straight forward. It's not A level of maths by any stretch.

And it does make sense the more you do it, but it does have to be right.

To help myself with all of that, I started to do some practice with the maths.

I got a couple of books, which you can buy on the internet on Nursing calculations.

And I started to learn the basics, just so that it wouldn't all be brand new to me when I started the course, and I did the same with the reflective writing, I did some research into what that actually means for Nurses.

And then when I started my degree, I made sure that I followed the university's guidelines on the academic writing.

Now this is a big one as well, writing essays for university is done differently than how we would remember doing them at school.

But all universities provide guidance on this.

There’s Support If You’ve Been Out Of Education For A While

Sometimes they make lessons compulsory, or they might just offer them as extracurricular sessions, but either way, if you've been out of education for awhile, or if you've never done a degree level course, you need to attend these sessions.

They will teach you how to do things like structuring assignments.

They'll help you to address the criteria properly and they'll teach you how to reference properly, which is absolutely essential to academic writing.

By the time I started the course in January, I already felt like I was back in the swing of education and also, I hadn't come across anything that made me feel like, hang on a minute, I don't think I can do this after all, or I wasn't expecting it to be like this.

There is lots of support available.

Remote Learning Suited Me Quite Well

My university experience this year has been quite unique because of course, when I started the course, there was another lockdown.

And that meant that I didn't do a single lecture on campus.

And I didn't meet any of my fellow students for five months.

And I still haven't met the tutors in person.

We did everything online, which actually suited me great because it meant that I could do all my studying at home with my little dog on my knee, pretty much like he is now, but other people couldn't really get along with that way of working, they found it very isolating.

They found that they didn't get enough support and it was hard to motivate themselves and they definitely didn't get the full social experience of being at university.

So that was a bit of a shame, but personally, I'd just decided to make the most of things as they were.

I learned on my first degree that I really don't like working to deadlines.

I don't like being under that kind of pressure.

I prefer to work at my own pace and well in advance.

My memory isn't always great.

So I work hard to get things to stick. And also actually I have other things going on in my life, apart from university, which like everyone, I need to balance.

So not everyone works the way I do.

But the important thing is to know yourself and how you work and what works best for you and just stick to that formula.

I Found There Was Lots Of Variety With The Course

So this year we've done some anatomy and physiology, which was like going back to biology lessons at school.

And I really enjoyed that. We considered things like what it's like for patients and spent time thinking about their view points.

We discussed ethical issues and we did basic drug calculations.

We learned about pharmacology and we did some clinical skills like CPR.

It was a very varied program and most of this was online and then eventually, they let us loose on the wards.

So Nursing degree courses are 50% theory and 50% placement.

So we spend a lot of time in different settings.

And this is where you really start to see your Nursing skill set develop.

And I can honestly say that I learned something new on every single shift that I did.

As for my career plans, at the moment, I feel like I want to go into oncology and all aspects of cancer care.

I would probably like to become a Nurse specialist, which means that I'll probably have to do a master's at some stage, I reckon to have about 20 good years of Nurse and ahead of me.

And I fully expect that I'll probably do at least five or six different Nursing roles in that time.

But that's the beauty of Nursing, that there are so many different types of Nurse and so many different environments to work in, and so many different roles to play.

It Is Never Too Late To Start Nursing

So what I'd really like to tell you is that if you're a bit older like me and you're worrying about whether it's too late to start something new, like Nursing, it definitely isn't too late.

And the Nursing profession needs the extra life experience that older people like us bring to the table.

I'd say do your research, read as much as you can and speak to the relevant people, speak to the university admissions teams about what you'll need to get in because they don't always publish that information because they're looking very much at individuals.

Learn about the massive range of roles that Nurses can do, because it's pretty much something to suit every personality type and everyone's individual situation.

And there are many different ways to care about and for people, pretty much there's something for everybody.

So Janet the the careers advisor who became Janet at the Student Nurse says, do we research be prepared to work hard and absolutely believe in yourself, you can do this.

Well, that's enough waffling from me for today.

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About the author

I am an adult nursing student at Teesside University. I am a (very) mature student and have had a varied career including careers advice, working for the police, working as a dog groomer and cafe owner. My spare time is spent by the North East seaside with my partner and my sausage dog.

    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
  • 1
  • 9983

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    • nkechinyere ukaegbu 11 months ago
      nkechinyere ukaegbu
    • nkechinyere ukaegbu
      11 months ago

      Thank you Janet, your experience inspires me to go on with my application to study nursing. As a mother of ... read more

      • Hi! I would say yes, you absolutely can pursue your dreams! There are lots of people on my course who have children and other responsibilities. It won't always be easy but support can come from many d... read more

        Hi! I would say yes, you absolutely can pursue your dreams! There are lots of people on my course who have children and other responsibilities. It won't always be easy but support can come from many directions and you'll become a master of organisation. Best of luck with your application and your future studies.
        read less

        Replied by: Janet Dalton