Djibril Niyitegeka (Jib) - Third year student nurse

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

There are many reasons. I was living in a refugee camp and saw some nurses helping other people there. They were changing people’s lives, and I decided that I wanted to do the same thing and make a difference.

Did you have to gain additional qualifications or did you progress straight from college?

When I came to the UK I had to gain some qualifications, as my first language is French. I also did the access course to higher education and GSCEs in English and Maths.

What is it like to be a student nurse in Greater Manchester?

You can make a difference to people’s lives. Here in Greater Manchester you have lots of support from both theoretical and clinical perspectives to help with your learning and development.

What has been your proudest moment so far?

I remember when a patient didn’t want to go for a procedure for a perforated bowel. I was able to speak with him and reassure him, so he felt that he could go on with the procedure. He saw me afterwards and told me that I was going to make an excellent nurse.

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

I was assigned a mentor in my placement with the Sexual Health Clinic who was extremely approachable. He would always give me time and encourage my confidence in leadership and management. He was excellent with the patients too.

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

Assessing acutely ill patients has been my favourite part of the course so far. With this subject you get the opportunity to understand anatomy and physiology, and use A to E assessment to monitor and respond to the patients’ needs accurately.

Where have your placements been so far?

So far I’ve had placements in the Sexual Health Clinic, Cardiology, Theatre, A&E, and the Respiratory and Surgical wards.

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

It’s often difficult to balance all aspects of this course with my personal life. I always plan my time in for revision and study. On the clinical side you always have support from the placement tutors in balancing shifts with personal commitments. They’re very flexible.

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

The environment in Manchester is very supportive. As English is not my first language I’ve had lots of support with learning and development. Also I moved here from Essex and have found the cost of living to be very reasonable, which helps while I’m a student nurse.

Djibril Niyitegeka

Nicola George - Third year student nurse

What was your background before you decided to study to become a nurse?

After finishing college I completed a degree in Sports Studies and worked in various coaching roles, in which I especially enjoyed working with young people. However I was mainly working on short term contracts, and as time progressed I was keen to find a career that offered more security.

I then found a rewarding position as a support worker in disabled residential services, again working with young people. I found I was suited to this work and progressed quickly although, as I progressed, my daily contact with patients was reduced. This was frustrating for me, as this was the part of the job that gave me the most satisfaction.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in Mental Health Nursing?

A family member suggested I might be suited to a nursing career, as this would offer job security as well as allow me to further develop the caring role I so enjoy. My previous experiences lead me to enrol as a student nurse studying Mental Health Nursing, as I thought this would be the best fit for the interests I’d developed in my career so far.

Why did you choose Greater Manchester?

I’m from the North West and so I wanted to stay local, to be close to my friends and family. The course also offered a wide range of placement opportunities and, after talking with friends, I knew I’d be entering a supportive environment.

What is it like to be a Mental Health student nurse in Greater Manchester?

I’ve been exposed to lots of different aspects of Mental Health Nursing, some of which I wasn’t aware of when I started the programme. Every placement offers something different and although I’ve been a little nervous when starting each one, I’ve always felt supported. I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every experience so much, I can’t now decide which area of Mental Health Nursing I’d like to work in when I qualify.

Sarah Catherine Lloyd

Sarah Catherine Lloyd – Second year student nurse

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

From my early teens, I always thought I would have a career in health. My first ambition was to be a Speech Therapist and work with those affected by a stroke so I gained a lot of work experience and volunteered at my local stroke club after school.

However, exam results weren’t what I had hoped for so my life went into a different direction and I spent many years working in admin and having a family. But healthcare stayed with me. With much more confidence than I had at 18, I decided to take a job in care which allowed me to work with people, supporting the elderly to live at home. I gained my Level 3 Advanced Diploma in Health and Social Care but decided that nursing is something I would be good at. During this time, the District Nurse inspired me to look into doing my nursing training; I knew if I didn’t do it now I never would.

Did you have to go back to school/college to gain additional qualifications or did you progress straight from college?

Yes, I did need extra qualifications to apply.

What subjects did you study?

I went back to college to re-sit my GCSE Maths and also I did the Access to Nursing diploma.

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

The adult nursing course  is busy, and at times, can be intense but the lecturers make the modules interesting and they want us to succeed. Manchester is a friendly place and there are a lot of opportunities to take advantage of, both within the university and out on placement.

What is the best thing about it?

The best thing about studying in Greater Manchester is the access we have to some of the best hospitals in the country. Our placements give us the opportunity to experience innovative procedures and treat rare conditions in specialist centres, which widens our knowledge for when we qualify.

Everyone I have come across during my studies so far have been really friendly and keen to help me learn. The transport around Manchester is also ideal for getting to and from placements.

Tell us about your proudest moment so far?

My proudest moment of being a nursing student so far was on my first day, on my first placement, on the first patient I cared for. His wife was amazed that I was new and that I hadn’t had any experience in that situation before. Caring for a patient and his wife during a particularly difficult time made me realise that I was doing the right thing in doing my nursing degree, especially as I was just being myself throughout the situation.

The patient’s wife told my mentor that I was a ‘natural’ and that was very much appreciated to hear back. She later gave me a hug and thanked me for all that I had done for them on the day. I saw the couple a few more times throughout my placement and that memory will stay with me throughout my life; definitely my proudest moment so far.

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

My first placement was inspiring for me. The support I received from the whole team was fantastic and I left with confidence and having experienced things I would never have expected. I got the chance to assist in procedures and was very privileged to have been present with patients in some very difficult consultations.

That placement inspired my interest in recovery nursing as I was so impressed with how I can work to support a patient and was fascinated with the nature of some conditions. I later chose one of the main conditions I came across as my unit presentation topic.

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

I have found all of the course interesting in varying ways so I haven’t got a particular part of the course I would call my favourite. I always enjoy the clinical skills sessions as they let you practice for ‘real’. I am looking forward to the simulation sessions we will be getting as the course goes on, such as sessions on trauma.

Tell us about the support that you receive from your placement mentors (Practice supervisors/Practice Assessors), who are they? And what kind of things do they help you with?

My mentors so far have all been very supportive and I was able to develop a good relationship with all of them. My first mentor is how I see myself nursing in the future. As I arrived with no hospital experience, she was the one that set me with a lot of the first skills and boosted my confidence. She was also there if I was unsure of anything, to listen and support.

Where have your placements been so far?

Day unit, specialist advisory service in the community, oncology ward.

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

We have block placements so although we have work to do, having the definite split between theory and placement makes the workload manageable. That said, the course can be intense so being organised is essential. Starting work as soon as it is set, or doing some reading/research makes it not feel quite as overwhelming. As I am also a mum, making sure I’m on track with things is important to me. Spreading the work out also means I have some time for myself as well and the other things I want to do.

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

Although I am not originally from Greater Manchester, I have lived here for over twenty years. The city is a very friendly student city with brilliant nightlife and a legendary music scene. There is also lots of shopping and good places to eat.

Now I have a family, I live further out but have the best of both worlds. I live in a smaller town but have easy access to the city centre which is only half an hour away. We have access to many different hospitals around Manchester but getting to placement is not difficult with the great transport links Manchester has.

What made you change career and why Nursing?

I decided to re-train as nurse as my love for healthcare never left me. I was getting tired of just speaking to people over the phone and via email and felt I was more suited to work away from the desk and making a difference in areas that really mattered. A job I got working supporting the elderly to live at home made me realise that this was something I felt I could do well, I loved working with and meeting lots of different people in varying settings.

I chose nursing because there are a variety of settings to work within, although I don’t know what I will go into when I qualify there are so many options open to nursing graduates. You can really go into wherever your passion lies.

Did you have any apprehension before changing careers?

At almost 41, when I started the degree I wondered whether I would be too old. I had also never studied to a degree level and although I did really well in my access course and passed my GCSE Maths, I was a little anxious if I would be able to cope academically.

What would your advice be to someone who is looking for a career change into nursing?

My advice for anyone looking to change careers into nursing would be to go for it. You’re never too old to change career.

I don’t regret training when I was younger as I believe now I am older, I have more confidence and life experience I didn’t have when I was 18.

I did worry about being the oldest among a group of youngsters but the cohort ranges from 18 years old to people my age. We all get along really well with some of my closest friends being in their twenties. We all support and learn from each other as we go and I have never been made to feel any different.

The course is intense and as a mum, having a good support network in place is really important. Juggling university work and placement with looking after a family can be difficult so this support and organisation network is vital. Be prepared to work hard and you’ll get out of your studies what you put in.

Sarah Catherine Lloyd

Catherine Bates - Third year student nurse

Did you have to go back to school/college to gain additional qualifications or did you progress straight from college?

I made the decision to go into nursing a little later in life, making a career change at 27 years old. Nursing wasn’t really on my radar when I was at school and I ended up studying English and Sociology at University before falling into a career in charity communications. I loved my job as a media officer at a fantastic charity but often felt quite removed from the work they were doing. Over a couple of years I started to think about a vocational job where I could be more hands-on, looking at options like occupational therapy and nursing. It was a big decision because it meant giving up a regular wage and making a complete lifestyle change. However I met a wonderful friend who is a nurse and hearing her talk about how much she loved her job gave me the final push to apply.

As it has been almost 10 years since I’d completed my A-levels, my first application to University was turned down. It was a bit of a knock to my confidence, but my dad convinced me that I shouldn’t give up. I pitched up at the University one afternoon and spoke to a kind admissions officer who explained that I would need a more recent science-based qualification. I signed up to a module on pharmacology and drug development lasting 6 months, which was enough for my application to progress and I was invited to interview. Thankfully I was offered a place, conditional on passing the Open University module. It was a bit touch-and-go as the module finished a matter of weeks before the start date of the nursing course, but the University were very accommodating and by September I had left work and was sitting in my first lecture.

What struck me about getting to know other students on the course was that people have had such different paths into nursing. Some joined straight from completing A-levels at school while others changed careers having completed the Access course at college or after a previous degree. I was worried that I’d be much older than others on the course but at 27 I was about the average age. It was fantastic meeting people of all ages and backgrounds who were all committed to pursuing nursing.

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

I can’t think of anywhere I would rather train as an adult nurse than Manchester. I’m originally from a small town in Lincolnshire and had moved here for work a few years before deciding to go into nursing. I already loved Manchester but as soon as I started to research nurse training I realised that I couldn’t really be in a better place, with some of the best Universities for nursing on my doorstep. I opted for the University of Manchester because it was so well-regarded and has a real focus on evidence-based nursing, although all the Manchester-based Universities providing nurse training have fantastic reputations.

It’s definitely the people of Manchester that have made my three years as a student nurse. From the incredible, talented and kind mentors I’ve had, to the good-humoured and often very patient patients, who have taught me just as much about how to be a good nurse. I feel like I’ve got to know and love Manchester even more and plan to stay after I qualify. We train at world-leading hospitals across Manchester and in incredible community-based teams who deliver care in every part of the city, often in very challenging conditions. While it was absolutely heart-breaking, being in Manchester at the time of the Manchester Arena bomb showed just how resilient and united the city is and I felt incredibly proud to call it home.

Tell us about your proudest moment so far?

There’s no doubt that nursing is a challenging degree and I think everyone on the course has to push to overcome various challenges on the way to registration. But on the flip side, this means that you have lots of really proud moments; from pinning on your badge and fob-watch on your first day of placement or passing an assignment to finally feeling confident enough to manage your own bay of patients. I think one of my proudest moments was being given the opportunity to run my own clinics while on placement in a GP surgery, something I never thought I’d be able to do as a student. A memorable moment was when I carried out an asthma review with a patient who had been having fairly regular asthma exacerbations that were limiting his activities. We talked through his reluctance to use his preventer inhalers and he agreed to give them a try. He came back 4 weeks later and said his life had been transformed; that his symptoms had massively reduced and that he no longer felt anxious about leaving the house. As an asthma sufferer myself it felt fantastic to know I’d played a part in improving his quality of life.

Tell us about the support that you receive from your placement mentors (Practice supervisors/Practice assessors), who are they? and what kind of things do they help you with?

The professional relationships I’ve developed with my mentors has been one of my favourite aspects of my training and I’m incredibly grateful for all their help. Mentors are experienced nurses who have done additional training to support student nurses, guiding us through each placement by providing advice, overseeing our work and completing our assessment documentation. We are assigned a mentor in each placement area who help plan our objectives, highlight learning opportunities and provide invaluable feedback. I’ve always worked really closely with my mentors who have provided encouragement and guidance, acting as role models and sounding-boards when I’ve been unsure of what to do. The part that experienced nurses play in teaching and supporting student nurses has been one of my favourite aspects of the course. I look forward to qualifying and being able to pass on the knowledge I’ve acquired to the next generation of nurses.

Where have your placements been so far?

I’ve had an incredible range of placements across six different hospitals in Greater Manchester as well as various community settings. I started out on an elderly medical ward followed by placements on Ear, Nose and Throat outpatients, two surgical wards, a GP surgery, sexual health clinic, oncology ward and A&E. My current and final placement is with the district nurses where I’m getting fantastic exposure to delivering care in peoples’ own homes which requires a broad range of complex nursing skills. In our second year we are given the opportunity to organise an elective placement with student nurses organising placement all over the UK and the world to explore areas of nursing they are most interested in. We are also encouraged to organise ‘spokes’ which are shifts in other placement areas to gain exposure to an even broader range of nursing and health services. I’ve spent time on a labour ward, in homelessness clinics, in theatre watching complex head and neck surgeries, in HIV clinics, intensive care and with various specialist nurses working in mental health, diabetes and critical care. Each student nurse has a completely unique journey and there are plenty of opportunities to shape our experience based on our interests and future nursing ambitions. I’ve learnt something valuable in every placement area and come to the end of my nurse training feeling like I’ve gained a good insight into how broad, complex and exciting nursing can be.

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

One of the most challenging parts of the course has been juggling placement with Uni work, a part-time job and trying to have a bit of a social life where possible. It’s not always easy to motivate yourself to sit down at the laptop after an exhausting day at placement when your body aches and your head is spinning from all the new things you’ve learnt. However, University lecturers and academic advisors are fully aware just how demanding the course is and have provided so much support over the three years. They make efforts to stagger assignments and provide lots of support and guidance. Our placement hours also gradually build up, so you’re not thrown into full-time placement from the outset – we started with just two days a week alongside lectures, giving us the opportunity to reflect and de-brief with other student nurses as we went along. Thankfully, although our summer term is longer due to placement, we still get a good break at Christmas, Easter and over the summer like students on other courses at the university – a much needed opportunity to recharge. I’ve just handed in my last assignment and although it’s been incredibly tough at times, the sense of achievement you feel at the end is unbelievable. I really feel like the course has built up my confidence and resilience, and I feel ready to start my nursing career – the hard times are absolutely worth it!

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

Manchester is such a fun and vibrant city and I’ve loved living here for the last five years. There’s always something going on and I’ve made some of my best friends here. It really feels like an exciting place to be at the moment, with so much new investment and changes on the horizon with plans like Devo-Manc. I feel incredibly proud to have studied here and the world-leading health services make it a brilliant place to train as a nurse. I can’t wait to start my career as a nurse in Manchester.