Why did you choose to enter the Nursing profession?
I have a varied professional background, predominately in intellectual difficulties and challenging behaviour. I saw nursing as a great opportunity in developing myself and skills further with an opportunity to become a behaviour therapist nurse. I had at one time wanted to be a social worker, however; what I realised over time, was how much I enjoyed being out in the frontline with the service users and their families who were in my care. Having first-hand seen the professionalism and compassion coming from nurses, I was encouraged, and believed in myself that nursing was a career I wanted to become a part of.
Who were your influencers?
Surprisingly my initial influencers were two nurses I became acquainted. I spent a number of days in the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) and while there two nurses who had been treating me had planted the idea into my head, that I could actually achieve my dream job. They informed me about the pathway via an access course. The real big influencers in my life have been my family (very understanding partner and five children) from day one they have fully supported me and in their words “Super proud of their dad going to be a nurse”. It hasn’t been easy, however; they know just how much I want to become a registered mental health nurse (RMN) and to receive my RMN pin.
Why do you think men are put off by Nursing as a career choice?
Since the days of Florence Nightingale and historically thereafter, nursing has been portrayed as a female dominated profession, and I guess because of this, the stigma has been a main contributor which has played a major part in discouraging men off from choosing it as a career, worried what their friends, family may say or how they may respond to them wanting to become a male nurse.
Have you received any negative impressions by your choice of degree/ career and how have you overcome those?
I cannot speak highly enough of my career choice and degree; my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner when I was younger. I honestly have NOT received any negative comments or impressions, quite the opposite. In fact from day one of me beginning my degree, some friends and family began to change towards me, seeing me more as a nurse, coming to me for advice on physical and mental health matters. I liked how they trusted me and were comfortable enough to come to me for advice.
Tell us about your journey to studying Nursing.
In 2013 I followed through on the advice of the two nurses in the RVH gave me regarding the access course. I signed up and completed the course over two years part time. As a mature student who had been out from education for a lengthy period of time, the thoughts of the journey ahead were very daunting. The fact that potentially this could be a total of five years of studying terrified me at the beginning, but it has actually passed so quickly. I found the access course to be enjoyable, and reasonable preparation for university.
Did you have a placement opportunity?
Throughout your time on the Nursing degree course you are expected to spend half of your time out on practice learning placements. With myself studying mental health nursing my placements have been mostly orientated around this field.
How have you enjoyed your course so far?
It hasn’t been without its challenges at times and there have been some serious moments of self-doubt and wondering if and how was I going to make it through the assignments and exams but I knew what I was getting myself into, and was fully aware it was going to take hard work and dedication. The support and open door policy from the lecturers however has been second-to-none, enabling me to approach the lecturers at ease, with any concerns. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Ulster University and have had fantastic opportunities on both a personal and professional basis. I have been course rep and senior rep, nursing society committee member, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Student Information officer and was also elected to RCN UK National Student Committee Member for Northern Ireland.
If you were to pitch this course to an A-Level student what would you say about it?
This is a BSc Hons degree which is currently fully funded and one which you receive a student bursary. Being a registered nurse is such a privileged position for anyone to be entrusted with, and as a student nurse, this is no different. Under the guidance and security of a practice learning mentor, (registered nurse) you will provide nursing care for people who find themselves being at their most vulnerable.
There is an array of career pathways within the nursing fields and opportunities for training that will further develop you in your chosen career. Nursing is a worldwide profession, and as such there are opportunities for those who wish to take their skills and expertise abroad.
What advice would you give a male considering studying Nursing?
We are in an era of change; society views are changing. Over recent years nursing has been embracing changes, and no longer is nursing “just a female job”. As a male nurse there are many opportunities and jobs when you qualify. You will find, that actually; friends and family will respect your decision and admire you for wanting to help care for those who need someone who cares enough to be by their side supporting them through their illness. The degree and training will well equip you and if you are someone with a genuine caring nature and want to provide a high standard of care, you will have every opportunity to excel through the various pathways.
A tip would be to have some work or voluntary experience within a care setting prior to starting a degree in Nursing.
What has been your favourite part of your degree to date?
There are perhaps too many things to mention, however; I suppose, being out on practice learning has been my favourite part. I have really enjoyed being able to practice and use the skills I have learned on the course, out in my clinical practice learning experiences. There are certain things which cannot be learned from any books, such as people’s feelings and emotions, and only in practice will you learn from the different experiences and further develop as a confident practitioner as a male nurse.