Emma Fenwick

What made you decide that you wanted to be a nurse?

I knew from an early age that I wanted to join a caring profession and I was firstly drawn to nursing. Despite this, I looked into lots of different disciplines, including nutrition, occupational therapy, radiology and physiotherapy. Whilst looking at university courses, I found that nursing was still the area I wanted to go into, due to the breadth of training and opportunity.

During my undergraduate degree in nursing, I took the opportunity to specialise in District Nursing. District Nursing appealed to me because the patients and relatives where in their own environment, where they are most comfortable. District Nursing also provided an opportunity for greater autonomy, decision-making and responsibility, which I enjoyed.

I worked on the community for 10 years and particularly enjoyed mentoring. I also engaged with numerous initiatives such as researching, piloting and implementing dependency tools and providing residential homes with educational sessions on skin care, pressure area care and diabetes.

Why and when did you leave?

I left nursing in 2007. I worked in a very busy, under-staffed District Nurse team as a team leader. During my second pregnancy, I found the role more challenging than usual and ultimately this affected how I felt about my role. This is when I started to think about a possible career change. I went back to University to do a Masters degree in Real Estate and Property Management.

There were always aspects of my nursing role that I missed and I felt the time was right to return to nursing. I was realistic in the knowledge that staffing levels would be no better than when I left but I wasn’t apprehensive when I commenced the RTP programme. Once I had read about the course and had my interview, I was looking forward to starting lectures.

However, I was a little apprehensive starting my placement as it had been 10 years since I had last nursed. My placement was in the community, so it was a familiar environment for me. I essentially had two mentors who were very encouraging, enthusiastic and keen to help me develop as an RTP student.

Manchester Met were extremely supportive. I had a very positive reception from the nursing team I worked with and from the nursing staff I worked with on my spoke placements. The essence of nursing is still the same as 10 years about, technologies chance, policies develop, paperwork is changed to address developments and respond to needs, but much of what I learnt as a student nurse and during my nursing career has not changed.

Personally, I felt that the delivery of the programme at Manchester Met did prepare me for going on placement. I felt that the variety of lectures and the structure of the programme was good and I got a lot out of it.

If you are considering returning to practice, I would say, research the RTP programme, consider your reasons for leaving nursing and the reasons you want to return. Also, be open minded, you have an idea of the area of practice that you want to return to but once in placement think about the opportunity you now have.

Make the most of your placement; be proactive with your placement area and if possible try to arrange spoke placement that you didn’t have the opportunity to experience when you were a student nurse. I spent time with the Continence and Stoma team, which was an area I felt I needed further development in. I learnt so much from that placement and it was extremely worthwhile.

What is it like to be a (Children’s/Adult/Mental Health) student nurse in Greater Manchester?

Returning to nursing in Manchester seem like an obvious step for me. Prior to looking at Return to Practice courses, I expected it to take at least a year to complete, but was pleasantly surprised that it was potentially possible to complete the training and academic study in 5 -6 months (depending on how long you have been out of practice).

When I started the course at Manchester Metropolitan University, I had been out of practice for 10 years so was a little apprehensive. My worries were soon eased as I found my fellow students had similar worries. The course leaders were fantastic and put our minds at rest. The 2 week block in university was very enjoyable and the facilities at Manchester Met are excellent.

When in university I really enjoyed the course content and was surprised by how much I remembered from my original training and practice experience.

I went on placement with the District Nurses in Bury. I was lucky to have an extremely experienced Mentor, who made me feel like a valuable member of the team and I was given plenty of opportunity to refresh and develop my ‘rusty skills’.

I also took this opportunity to get as much Spoke experience as possible. I chose practice areas that would really enhance my knowledge and skills. I was confident to arrange my own Spoke placements and was able to spend time at the Hospice. As an RTP, I found that staff were keen to find out about you and your experiences and were keen to disseminate their knowledge.

I learnt a great deal both in my placement and on Spoke. I met and worked with some fabulous nurses who displayed enthusiasm and passion for their jobs, even during stressful and challenging situations.

What is the best thing about it?

I was privileged to have an amazing Spoke placement at a Hospice. Here, I was made to feel valued and I was able to use my previous knowledge and skills to develop further.

Tell us about your proudest moment so far?

Throughout my nursing career, I have many moment that I cherish. Since becoming an RTP student, being able to build a relationship with an anxious patient has been a highlight. Being given the opportunity to plan, provide and lead her care  is something I am proud of.

Is there a patient, a particular placement experience or a colleague who has inspired you?

My Spoke placement at the Hospice was probably a highlight and I felt privileged to have been able to care for patients in that environment. Helping with symptom control and being able to give the time to provided hands on care is important and I am happy I have had the opportunity to do that. My mentor was also very inspiring, knowledgeable and keen to develop the Hospice and its services.

What has been your favourite part of the course so far?

I have really enjoyed the two-week lecture block at university, but my highlight is definitely working at the Hospice.

Tell us about the support that you receive from your placement mentor, who are they? And what kind of things do they help you with?

My Mentor was extremely welcoming and supportive. She encouraged me to get involved, lead care, assess patients and generally helped me gain confidence in my own abilities. This enabled me to quickly feel confident to go out with my own caseload of patients within residential homes.

Where have your placements been so far?

District Nurses in Bury, plus spokes with the Hospice, Continence team and IV team.

How do you balance your studies and assignments with your practice placements?

It is never easy to balance studies, placements and family, along with other responsibilities like voluntary roles. The RTP course does allow for the flexibility to work a minimum of 3 shifts per week so that other roles and responsibilities can, to some extent, fit around the course. I have the advantage that I enjoy studying and learning which made juggling studying, working and caring for my family easier.

What is it like to live and study in Greater Manchester?

I love Greater Manchester, and have lived and worked here all my life. The city is developing all the time and over the years, I have seen vast changes. There is a massive push to build living accommodation in the city centre and the business districts have changed and moved with the development of accommodation, retail and leisure quarters. However, my favourite thing about living in Greater Manchester is access to the Pennines, local country parks and canal paths, there is such a diverse range of countryside available by great transport links.

Emma Fenwick