• 27 February 2019
  • 14 min read

What brought me into nursing?

  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

Claire shares her inspirational story of how she came to study as a nurse. She had no qualifications and many set backs, but she finally chased her dreams and is now so close to qualifying! Read Claire's story to find out how she did it - and how a boiled egg plays a part in her journey...

Play video: Claire shares what made her passionate about nursing, and what her journey entailed.

Hello and welcome back to my channel!

If you don't know who I am, my name is Claire Carmichael I'm a third year adult nursing student.

So today I want to talk to you all about what brought me into nursing and what made me realise I wanted to be a nurse.

Some people, they were born into a profession; they knew from the very beginning from when they were like tiny tiny tiny, but for me I had no clue.

My childhood memories of what my career might entail...

The first memory I have heard of any career I wanted to do was when I was around nine years old, and I had a little post office set and I loved stamping things so I wanted to be a post lady and I wanted to stamp things!

Either that or I wanted to be an Official Stamper for somebody, that was my main goals when I was nine years old.

However when I was seven years old, so let's rewind the time take me back to my seven-year-old little self - I grew up with my Nana and Grandad and unfortunately my Grandad passed away of cancer, but he hated hospitals.

He refused to go into hospitals so he wanted to be cared for at home and luckily he got those wishes respected, so I watched him sort of slowly decline at home.

I remember not fully understanding what was going on but I knew something wasn't right and I remember seeing these amazing district nurses.

This was the first time I had ever really remembered seeing the nurse and I remember them doing all these things with my granddad.

I remember just looking up to them I and thinking, wow these people are something special, these are Wonder Women to me, who are these people, why do I admire them so much, what is it about them that I love?

I had no clue but I knew I admired them and I knew that I just fell in love with nurses at that point, but even that being said I didn't realise I wanted to be in a nursing job.

I knew I admired those people, I knew that they were doing an amazing job and how they were with my granddad and how compassionate and caring they were.

I admired everything about them but I didn't think that's the job I wanted to do.

Play video: Claire offers her advice on the top essential things you need for nursing school!

'I didn't know how to help, I didn't know how to prevent it'

Then a little bit later on in life, so I was 15 years old, my Nan unfortunately passed away.

I remember being 15 and I'm already going through my own hormones, my own emotions, trying to find out where I fit into the world but to also have to deal with my Nan dying of cancer and not understanding anything.

I didn't understand anything about how the body works, how it's affecting her and why she was losing way, why suddenly her abilities slowed down, why she needed a wheelchair; all of these things and I just watched her sort of deteriorate before my eyes and I didn't understand it.

I didn't know how to help, I didn't know how to stop it, I didn't know how to prevent it.

I didn't know how to care for my Nan - this is someone that's always cared for me and it just it was a really really upsetting time.

I think that was one of the other reasons why I wanted to go into nursing was to get that knowledge, to get that theory behind me so that I can help others and help care for others effectively with the knowledge behind me of what something's doing to somebody's body.

I'll be able to care for somebody effectively if that makes sense.

So I couldn't stop it unfortunately, my Nan died, my granddad died and in this life there are going to be patients that die and you're gonna have to deal with that.

But for me I if I have the knowledge I can care for someone, I can give that person the best care possible during their last moments of their life and hopefully also prevent it from getting to that stage.

Seeing the warning signs, seeing the symptoms, recognising all of those things as a nurse and saying to someone ‘okay let's test you for this, test you for that let's check you out, let's get you better treatment, let's slow this process down, give you a better quality of life, give you pain management’.

All of these things that I just didn't know back then and it frustrated me because I didn't know how to care from a Nana, I didn't know what to do about it and it really upset me but this is why I wanted to do something about it this is why I thought, you know what I need to do something about it!

But again like I've said I didn't know how to, I didn't know where to start I didn't think I was intelligent enough, I didn't know how to do these things. I felt like a failure.

Play video: Claire talks about what she thinks her career will be like as a nurse!

'I didn't think I was intelligent enough for uni'

I had a lot of self-doubt, self-confidence issues a lot of self-esteem issues and I didn't think I could be a nurse.

I didn't think I was intelligent enough to be a nurse and alongside that I always saw nursing as a really high profession. I always thought you needed like this fancy education.

I thought that you had to come from a family background of Nursing to actually go into nursing and be a nurse if that makes sense. So I never thought myself as that sort of person at all.

I literally I came from a background where nobody went to university, all of my family lived in council houses, everybody had hospitality jobs, Sales Advisor jobs, working in fish and chip shops, things like that so I never saw myself as being capable of being in a high profession such as nursing.

But I think my main point saying that was because with nursing and doctors, teachers roles like that you need a degree to go into the profession.

I didn't feel like I was smart enough to do a degree.

I didn't think I had that intelligence to do a degree so I've being unable to do a degree I couldn't do any roles such as nursing or doctoring because I just I didn't feel like I had that level to go and do that.

So I did go and do all the jobs that I could do without doing a degree after I left school.

I left school with literally nothing. I didn't have any GCSEs, I got a B for art, a C for French, the rest were D’s and E's - write them off because nobody wants D’s and E's if you're going to apply to do your degree.

So this was another knock of my confidence.

I literally had no confidence, I had no self belief, I didn't know I could be a nurse so I did follow my mum's footsteps in the end and actually went and worked as a housekeeper in a hotel, which, to be honest I'm going to say this now, housekeeping was one of my top favourite jobs to do.

Housekeeping was great - but not what I wanted out of life

It was one of the best experiences, I absolutely loved it and you know what if I wasn't doing my nursing now I would probably still work as a housekeeper because it's such a great job.

I had a great team around me; we used to put on the radio, we'd make the beds, have a dance.

Every day was a fun day doing housekeeping and some people might think, wow why would you want to do that, but you know what it's one of my favourite jobs I've ever had. I worked in hospitality for five years, a mixture of housekeeping, waitressing, reception work.

So then I was talking to someone and I was just saying ‘I don't know what I want to do with my life. I don't really want to work in hospitality, I don't know where it should be in the world I don't know what I want to do, I don't know where my career lies’.

It was actually someone's comment to me that said ‘I can see you as a nurse, I can see you in a nursing job’ and I was like… I don't know, I couldn't do that!

Then literally I think it was either that night or the very next morning I got onto the job search, I had to look at nursing and I found my very first residential care home position.

It came up and I was like, okay, care home - what do we need to do to do this? So then I had a look at the requirements I was like, okay I don't need a degree to be a carer.

They just want an NVQ which you can do on the job, it says I can do this, so I applied for the position. I explained about my GCSEs, I said I've done really bad but I'll do whatever it takes to get them because I really want this position.

Luckily for me they said, okay no problem we'll put you on the loan direct and get your level 1 in IT and numeracy we will get you doing your NVQ - if that's the route you want to go into and we'll get you out there and we'll give you a job!

Yes, this is amazing!

Play video: Claire shares her five favourite experiences from her time as a student nurse.

My first job in care

So in 2005 I got my very very first care assistant job which I absolutely adored.

This home was one of my favourite homes, it was just a little small home I think it had about 18 or 20 beds; it was quite small really with a small fantastic team, fantastic manager.

We all got on so well we had such a laugh every day at work, it was amazing!

So in this care home was where I actually discovered my love for nursing.

I absolutely fell in love with caring for people, I fell in love with looking after people.

I fell in love with the compassion, the empathy, doing everything I can to make someone's life better.

I loved it!

We would get the district nurses come and go, because we were just a residential home we didn't have our own nurses so when we got the district nurses come and go I was constantly sitting with them.

I was really engrossed in what they were doing.

I thought ‘this is amazing, this is fantastic, this is where I can see my career lie’, but again I didn't think I had the intelligence to do something like that so I never really questioned it.

It wasn't until I worked alongside this carer - I really just I want to say this first, she was amazing she was a great, great carer.

The way she cared for patients was fantastic.

She was funny, she was great.

But this one day. a patient wanted a boiled egg on toast and she came to me and she's like ‘Claire, I don't know how to boil an egg’! Like what do you mean, you don't know how to boil an egg?!

It really threw me, baffled me because I'd always cooked for myself from the age of 16 17 so I never thought about how other people are and how other people can or can't cook or anything like that.

But to me, in my head it was a simple thing.

I was like, but it's an egg! Everyone knows how to boil a little egg!

She was like ‘I genuinely don't know how to boil an egg, can you show me?’ and I was like, okay! So I showed her and she was like ‘oh… is that it?’ and I was like, yeah!! She was really surprised - so she just didn't know!

The nursing diploma was my first hope at becoming a nurse

She had just got an acceptance letter to go and do the nurse diploma - back then our courses had nurse diplomas and nurse degrees and she got accepted onto the nurse diploma.

I was like, how did you get accepted on the nurse diploma, like don't you need a degree?

She's like, no no you just need your NVQ 2 and your NVQ3 and you can get on your diploma.

I just thought, wow I hope I can do this I can do this, I definitely can do this!

And then I thought, you know what if she can't boil an egg and she can be a nurse, I can definitely be a nurse I can definitely do this! (no offence to anyone that can't boil an egg) but because of her inspiration that's what made me do my nursing.

I knew what I had to do; I had to get my NVQ2s, NVQ3s and then I could apply for the diploma.

However in my job within that residential home they didn't do NVQ3s unless you were higher up in the rank so there was no positions go into.

There was not really much room for progression.

I went to my manager and I explained that I want to do my NVQ3 but unfortunately because I was just band 2 care assistant and you had to be a band 3 to do that NVQ3 there was no funding for me.

It really disheartened me that I had to leave but I had to do it for my own benefit and progress further and do the career that I wanted to do.

So I did unfortunately leave that position and then went to work for young adults with learning disabilities because they needed a team leader and then I could do my NVQ level three.

So I applied for it! I actually got the position of care assistant to start with and then I applied again for the team leader role because I didn't get it the first time around.

They said you just need to just push yourself a little bit more, you need to come over with a bit more confidence in your interview, sell yourself.

Something that actually always been told in my interviews is I need to sell myself more so I am working on that.

But second time around I did get the position, I became a team leader in charge of a team! It was a busy and really great experience and I got to do my NVQ level 3.

Read how to progress your career as a care home nurse to see what other opportunities lie within care work, and what NVQs you need for what positions!

So I did it so I got on to my NVQ level 3 and I finished it and completed it.

But by the time I went to apply for nursing, which was in 2010 when I finally got round to actually applying for the nursing diploma.

So I rang up the university I wanted to know how I went about it and how I applied for it, and then they told me ‘I’m really sorry, we don't do the nursing diplomas anymore they've been completely scrapped - we are a degree only profession’.

I was gutted.

If I just applied the year before or if life didn't happen I might have got in, and oh I was gutted.

I had no confidence in myself to do a degree - but I did it!

I was just like, what I can't do this, I can't do the degree!

Again I had it in my head I wasn't smart enough and I'd heard about the 10,000 word dissertation in a degree, so I was just like I can't do that I can't write ten thousand words of a dissertation that's not me.

I’m not confident enough, I'm not smart enough I haven't got it in me to do something like that.

So that really really put me off applying for the degree, my own self worth and self confidence was so low I didn't think I could do it.

However I did look into it, despite all my fears all of my worries I did look into it and I thought, okay so they need an access course to get onto the degree.

So I looked into that, I looked at Walsall College where I actually went and I did my access course.

I finally plucked up the courage! It was a year-long, it was part-time - there classes full-time but actually when you go I think it's only something like 17 hours so you can manage to work around the access course; well I did anyway back then this was in 2010.

So yeah, so I did my access course and then after my access course I applied to go to uni.

It has taken me a long time from then to here but and I knew that that's where I had to be, what I wanted to do and I went out and I did it all because of a girl that couldn't boil an egg and she inspired me to do that.

So hands up who loves eggs?! 

You too can become a nurse, even if you think you haven't got what it takes. Read our blog on how to change your career and become a nurse to find out what steps you need to take.

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About the author

  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

I am a student nurse studying at Birmingham City University. I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs not only to help other student nurses, but also to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.

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  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

About the author

  • Claire Carmichael
    Student Nurse and Vlogger

I am a student nurse studying at Birmingham City University. I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs not only to help other student nurses, but also to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.