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From McDonalds to trainee nurse – Rebecca has come a long way

After leaving school and working in McDonalds, Rebecca Reffold spent six years in the Royal Navy. She began studying with the OU in 2014, and four years later, is now juggling OU study and training to be a nurse alongside being a busy mum!

Photo of Rebecca Reffold and her daughter Jessica

Rebecca and her daughter Jessica

“My six years in the Royal Navy were wonderful,” she says. “I helped to rebuild schools in Africa, and travelled to 27 countries. But I wanted to start a new path and have children, so I took voluntary redundancy. I then had my daughter Jessica, and spent 18 lovely months as a stay-at-home mum.”

Like many people, Rebecca didn’t know what she wanted to do for a career when she left school. “I went to college for a year and then joined the Navy,” she explains. “I started studying with the OU when Jessica was one, completing a BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Health and Social Care. I then completed a Certificate of Higher Education in Health and Social Care, and got a distinction! I kept looking at the next thing – and what I could achieve.”


Inspired by nurse colleagues

Since 2016, Rebecca has been working as a complex care practitioner looking after people with various conditions, including respiratory failure, spinal injury, motor neurone disease, and traumatic brain injury.

“I wanted to progress and understand the theory, and I was inspired by my nursing colleagues,” says Rebecca. “I wanted to do what they did. So I started studying for my BSc Adult Nursing in 2017 and hope to qualify in September 2020.”

Rebecca already knew about the OU so she got in touch and spent time talking to OU advisers. “I originally planned to do a foundation degree, but when I called, the funding had changed, so I changed my plans,” she explains. “I am funding myself through student finance, and my employer is supporting me by providing my placements. It makes such a difference to have support from my employer.”

A balancing act

Being a working parent is a challenge, and that’s before studying is added into the mix too.

Rebecca describes her busy week: “I have to balance my OU study with running a home and work, alongside parents’ evenings, swimming and horse-riding! I work two night shifts a week, plus extra when I can, and I study the rest of the week if I am not doing overtime.”

But she’s clear that studying in this way with the OU has given her balance in her life and around her family. “I needed study to be flexible and to be able to swap things around,” she says. “It’s a sacrifice but its only short term – it’ll be worth it when I am a qualified nurse in 2020 at 33 years old.”

A proud moment

So many people are supporting Rebecca on her journey. She explains: “My patients are really proud and want to see me become a nurse. My senior nurse colleagues are so supportive – they see it’s not just a job to me.”

And Rebecca is rightly proud of what she is achieving herself. “I’ve been so thrilled with my assignment scores, and I feel I deserve my good marks. I’ve had so much happen along the way but I’ve not let it get in the way. I’m really happy with what I’ve achieved in my life. I always doubt myself but I don’t want to give up, I’m so determined.”

What’s next?

Although it will open so many doors for her, Rebecca thinks she would like to stay in neurology when she qualifies. “I love the complexity and patient-centred approach of neurology,” she explains. “I’d like to specialise and become an expert in my area – why waste all this knowledge?”

Rebecca believes the OU has opened doors that are changing her whole life. “I’ve come a long way since I started in McDonalds! I have a daughter, and as well as provide for her, I want to show her that wherever you are in life, you can do it.”

About Author

Kath works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is a skilled communicator with more than 15 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has a BA (Hons) English and American Literature from University of Warwick and specialises in stories from the Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, BBC programmes, and student stories. In her spare time Kath enjoys touring the country in her hand-painted camper van, Trevor.

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