The journey down south
Nursing is not how my life in London began. I came to London from Yorkshire when I was 19 to study archaeology. My biggest fascination in life was how people in the past lived, thought and felt. I was also desperate to understand ways of life other than my own - studying archaeology and being in London with its complex mix of cultures seemed to be the best way to find out; the countryside was not going to do it for me. I loved London straight away. My student halls were on Oxford Street and I found it thrilling to wander through the streets of central London.
I made a friend who had grown up in London. She took me to see obscure films at the British Film Institute, to buy fruit and vegetables I’d never seen before in Turkish grocery shops in North London, and to see bands in tiny pubs in East London. Since then I have lived and worked all over London. It is an education in and of itself – this city constantly shows and teaches you new things.
From archaeology to nursing
I had realised I wanted to work with people and be in a dynamic and challenging role. I completed my degree in archaeology and started training to be a school history teacher, only to realise quickly that it was not the right path for me. I went back to the drawing board. With both parents qualified nurses; my grandmother, aunt, great aunt, cousin - all nurses - I had subconsciously avoided considering it as a teenager in my determination to be different.
I happened to get a temp job as a medical secretary at University College London Hospital. This gave me an insight into the diversity of nursing roles; what it is that nurses actually do. From helping patients wash and dress, to operating ventilators and dialysis machines, to coordinating the pathway of care from hospital to home, to conducting research into new treatments. I got to know some of the ward nurses, research nurses and specialist nurses. I was fascinated to hear about their days and their interactions with patients.
I saw that nurses experience an amazing breadth of emotion in their roles. Sometimes they were visibly tearful and exhausted, but often real joy was evident in their faces. I didn’t see this in other health professionals. I wanted that experience - to work with people and feel all of the things you feel when it is your job to help people.
Nursing challenges you to be there for people on a psychological level as well as practically delivering the care. It’s a really well rounded job; you’re not just there to do what you need to do and get out, you need to bring your whole self to the role. That’s what makes the difference to the patient: who you are, how you are as a nurse and how you relate to people.
Her role today
Since I qualified I have worked on rotation and as an Intensive Care Nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. At the beginning of 2018 I began developing into the very different and exciting role of endocrine nurse specialist at the Gender Identity Clinic (the adult service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust). This role appealed to me in particular because my brother is transgender and also my aunt (who is sadly no longer with us). I have a strong family link and understand some of the issues and difficulties faced by transgender people. I knew this was the perfect job for me.