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International Nurses’ Day – Lorraine’s story

On Sunday 12 May, it’s International Nurses’ Day – a day to celebrate the contributions that nurses make to society. From a role in Events & Catering to Practice Education Sister for Placement Support – Lorraine Lewry crafted her nursing career with the support of The Open University. Here she talks us through her journey.

My name is Lorraine, I am 52 years old. I am a wife, a mother and a grandmother. This is my OU story.

My nursing career started almost by chance. Having taken time out from my career in Events and Catering to have my third child; I decided I wanted a role which would offer me more security and a better pension. I had reached my mid-thirties and these were the life issues which had suddenly become important to me (I was finally a grown up!). After having done some research; a role within the NHS appeared to fit my grown-up agenda. I had never worked in healthcare or had ever considered it as a career option (I had teenage dreams of being a journalist). I had worked all my adult life in the service industry: how different could healthcare be? I would still be looking after people, right?

In 2004, I secured a job as a Health Care Assistant on an acute surgical ward at our local NHS hospital. As a complete novice I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of a very dynamic and inspirational Ward Manager (in the interests of confidentiality I shall refer to her as Sister P). Sister P was instrumental in encouraging me to develop my role as an HCA. She invested her time and knowledge in me and set me on my path of becoming a registered nurse.

As clichéd as it may sound; I had found my vocation in life. But with three children, a husband, a home to run and having to work full-time; I couldn’t see how I could ever take the financial risk of becoming a student nurse to pursue my nursing aspirations.

By 2009, I had become an expert in my role as an HCA. I had undertaken an NVQ level 3 in Healthcare and had finally passed my Maths level 2 (third attempt!). The stage was set; I could apply to university but I couldn’t commit to a full-time course. Anyway, I’m too old to be even contemplating a university course and ‘nobody’ in our family has ever been to university. What was I thinking? Who am I trying to kid? I could never become a nurse. I put all my energy at work into doing the best job I could as an HCA.

In early 2010, I took a mandatory training day with a fellow HCA; she told me that she had just started on an Open University Pre-Registration Nursing Diploma. It was a relatively new route into nursing. The Open University were running the part-time course in partnership with our employer. She was still an employee and getting financial and educational support to help with her studies. It was a distance learning course of 29 hours per week over 4 years 4 months and fitted in well with her busy home life, plus she was able to top up her income with extra HCA hours. It sounded perfect. ‘Does she have stay up all night watching tutorials on the telly?’ (basically: the sum of my knowledge about the OU at the time!). I applied for the OU Pre-Registration Nursing Diploma course in July of 2010.

September 2010, I became a seconded Open University student nurse – part of the third cohort of OU students which my employer had sponsored. I felt that I was part of a brave new era of pre-registration nurse education. I’ve got my uniform, my course literature for the coming 18 months, and my student portfolios for the next 4 years. I had been allocated a Practice Education Facilitator by my employers and I had the name of my OU Programme Tutor. Face-to-face and online group tutorials had been arranged with my OU tutors.

I couldn’t wait to get started. I was also slightly terrified.

The next 4 years 4 months flew past. Despite the course being essentially distance learning based; I developed good relationships with all of my course tutors as they proved to be very accessible and supportive. I found the course very ‘user friendly’. The programme workbooks and recommended reading were easy to navigate and reflect what was being learnt in practice at each stage of the course. Having never written an academic essay; the tutoring and online guidance provided made this task much less daunting. My OU ‘virtual’ classroom was accessible 24 hours a day and provided a wealth of educational resources, guidance and support. Through excellent tutoring and responsive feedback; I felt well supported and managed to attain all of my academic qualifications in order to become a registered nurse. I qualified in January 2015 with a Diploma of Higher Education in Adult Nursing: my name was added onto the NMC register.

I am a registered practitioner; a nurse. I am 48 years old and I have been to university and I am a nurse!

On qualifying; I began my registered nursing career as a Band 5 Staff Nurse on a busy surgical ward. Within 6 months of qualifying, I was taking charge of the ward in the absence of more senior staff. The broad foundation I gained from the OU programme allowed me to expand my role in quick succession after qualifying. I gained my mentorship qualification and found myself mentoring a fellow OU student. The course had become well established and respected throughout our organisation. Two years post qualification and I secured a Band 6 role facilitating discharges from acute hospital beds into community rehab hospital beds. It was a completely autonomous role and I found myself drawing on my experiences as a distance learner and the resilience it provided me with in order to transition from working within a dynamic team to being a lone worker.

January 2019. An opportunity arose to join the Practice Education Team within the trust I did my training through. I was encouraged to apply for the role of ‘Practice Education Sister for Placement Support’ by the Practice Education Facilitator whom supported me through my OU training. There were a lot of changes happening within nurse education and new routes into nursing became part of a wider NMC approach to recruiting and retaining the next generation of registered practitioners. It recognised that student nurses whom felt well supported through their training were more likely to see the course through (as was my experience with the OU) and secure a job within their training organisation post qualification. To my amazement; I got the job!

April 2019. I am four weeks into my new role. I am excited at the prospect of nurturing the next generation of nurses and nursing associates. My new role will provide me with opportunities to further develop my education and my skills as a registered nurse and it’s all thanks to my OU experience. To think that I was supported enough that I could undertake a university course whilst being a full-time wife and mother (and half way through my training – a grandmother!) is testament to how successfully and expertly the OU deliver their education. I will be eternally humble to have been a small part of the OU story.

My name is Lorraine. I am 52 years old. I am a nurse, an educator and a proud member of The Open University Alumni. Here’s to the next 50 years.

About Author

Hannah is part of the Media Relations Team at The Open University, working with the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies. With experience both agency and in-house, Hannah has worked on campaigns for a number of large corporate companies and brands, including RBS, NatWest, Travelodge, Audible, AA and the Royal Academy of Dance. She has completed a Masters in Publishing Studies from Oxford Brookes and is currently studying towards a DipHE in Computer, IT and Design. In her free time she enjoys photography, reading and going to the theatre.

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