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On the threshold - starting a career in nursing

Figures released earlier this year showed that only one in seven of all empty nursing posts were being filled. The Royal College of Nursing warned that potential recruits are choosing other professional paths, perceiving too many reasons to think twice about a career in caring.

But in spite of the challenges, every year the NHS welcomes a new cohort of nurses to begin their careers – inspiring people driven to provide care and compassion as a vocation.

After a final student placement with one of our district nursing teams this summer, Jenny Giampaoli will report for duty in September at Moseley Hall Hospital’s inpatient neurological rehabilitation unit (INRU) – her first full-time post as a qualified nurse after completing a three-year degree in adult nursing at Birmingham City University this summer.

Jenny was part of a group of 12 Birmingham City University and University of Birmingham students to gain experience in a range of clinical settings as part of BCHC's community rotation programme.

“I’ve worked in healthcare for the best part of nine years after deciding retail was not the job for me,” said the 27-year-old.

Jenny Giampaoli

“I suppose I chose to go down the healthcare route as my mom, nan and uncle all had healthcare related roles such as learning disabilities support worker, support worker for supported living and teaching assistant for adult students with learning difficulties.

“My mom is also a foster carer to two amazing siblings, with one of them having complex needs.”

Jenny’s journey to being a qualified nurse began with a community healthcare assistant role, supporting patients within their own homes.

“I finished my first day and I knew I had found my passion,” says the Tuscany-born Brummie.

“From there, I wanted a role where I could spend a little more time with patients, so I started working at a care home which gave me more opportunity to get to know service users and their families and for me to give them the best possible care.”

Within six months, Jenny was promoted to senior carer, taking on additional responsibilities and signing up for an advanced apprenticeship in health and social care, working in a clinical decision unit (CDU) at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, to meet the entry requirements for a nursing degree.

“I really found my feet there,” she remembers. “My ambition to become a nurse became greater than ever and I took up any learning opportunity presented to me.

One of Jenny’s final year placements was at INRU – and she says it was that experience that really built her confidence and convinced her she had chosen the right career.

“I don’t think there are words good enough to explain how this ward changed me,” says Jenny.

“It’s a rehab ward for patients with acquired brain injuries with a wonderful team of doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, occupational therapists; physios; dietitians; and speech and language therapists.

“They work collectively to rehabilitate patients so that they can live as independently as possible and I’ve watched patients change every day, making little – but actually huge – improvements.

Ready

“The ward itself is brilliant, the skills and knowledge of the staff are inspiring and the teamwork is amazing. They instantly made me feel like part of a big family - I looked forward to going into work every day.

“From the very beginning, I was treated as an aspiring nurse and given lots of responsibilities. It was the first time throughout my degree that I felt capable and ready to become a staff nurse.

“I’ve comforted families who have struggling to deal with their loved ones’ condition and cried tears of joy when patients begin to smile and speak again.

“I’m excited to have finished my course and I feel so ready, but also a little scared. I sometimes wish I had a bit more time but I’ve worked extremely hard to get here and the learning will continue every day.

“My journey in healthcare has made me realise I have qualities I never thought I had. From holding a patient’s hand for hours ‘til they take their last breath; or comforting families at their lowest moments, to bringing a smile to the faces of patients and their families, whatever the reason for admission.

“What you get from having a career in the NHS is not written in any job description.

“Nobody can tell you what helping thousands of patients does to you – it fills me with pride and joy each day. People keep saying I always have a smile on my face - so hopefully, that is infectious!

“Nursing isn’t just a qualification. No grades or assignment can teach you to be compassionate and caring. But you do need to be determined and passionate and have the courage to face difficult situations.

 “I’d be lying if I said all days were perfect, because they’re not. Along the way, I’ve shed many tears, had terrible shifts and often questioned whether I could really do this.

“But I’ve learned to be resilient and that sometimes you’re going to be faced with really difficult and testing situations which can knock your confidence and make you question yourself and your decisions - all of which inspire me to pick myself back up and have the courage to carry on.

“It’s not an easy journey – it’s tough and you get out of it what you put into it. I know first-hand that it’s much more than a job, it’s a commitment and a way of life.

“But it all made me who I am now – passionate and ambitious about my career choice and, every day, I can honestly say I am proud and honoured to become a nurse.”