Nursed into nursing

Members share their experiences of becoming nurses after being patients

Sally, mental health nurse

When I was 16, I had to have major surgery on my jaw and was in hospital for around 10 days. It was a scary time. I'd had to travel to Perth Hospital for the surgery as the local hospitals weren't able to do the procedure and so I was far away from home, with all kinds of metal plates and pins and things in my face, unable to really eat and at risk of choking. My overriding memory of that time now though is that it was when I decided to become a nurse. 

RCN member Sally

Up until that point, nursing wasn't really on my radar at all. However, over my time there I observed the nurses and how they worked and interacted with me and I immediately saw it as something I wanted to do. It seemed like such a varied, sociable and satisfying job.

I started training about a year after my surgery. Now, after working as a mental health nurse for the past 30 odd years, I still feel exactly the same.

Michael, adult nursing student 

If you told me this time last year that I’d be training to become a nurse, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.                

When I collapsed at the side of the road during a run last June, I was working as a scientist. I wasn’t fully satisfied in my career but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. 

RCN member Michael

I spent a week in the coronary care unit at Southampton General Hospital and the nursing staff were simply amazing. Right from the students to the specialists, they were all on it. They took the time to really assess my needs as an individual patient, explain things to me and put my mind at ease. The whole experience really expanded my horizons as to what being a nurse meant. 

Within a week of leaving hospital, I had made up my mind to become a nurse and I started my PGDip at the University of Southampton in February. I hope to make a difference to my patients’ care, in the same way my nurses did to mine.

I hope to make a difference to my patients' care, in the same way my nurses did to mine


John, course lead for undergraduate nursing

When I was 13, I was run over by a car and ended up in hospital with a badly broken leg and fractured skull. I then had to go back aged 15 for ongoing care and, during this time, my interest was piqued by the nurses working on the ward. 

Watching them looking after so many people with such care and seeing how the simple things they did could make the biggest difference had a huge impact on me. 

RCN member John

Especially as a young man, seeing a male nurse on the ward made me realise that this could be a possible career for me. I clearly remember sitting on my bed in the ward and thinking, “I’d like to do this”. And I’ve never looked back. 

I often reflect on my experience as a patient and I tell my students now that, as nurses, we’re in such a privileged position to be invited into peoples’ lives when they’re at their most vulnerable. It was the sensitive and unwavering support of my nurses that made me choose this profession, one of which I’m very proud.

Alison, retired head of nursing

After finishing my A Levels, I had my heart set on going to study astrophysics at university. Then my mum became ill so I took some time out to care for her and re-evaluate what I wanted to do. 

My aunt was a nurse and she often suggested nursing to me but I was adamant that I wasn't interested. The concept I had of what a nursing career could offer was quite limited at that point. I'm not even that great with blood so really didn't think it was right for me. 

RCN member Alison

Then I got appendicitis and had to spend around a week in hospital. It opened my eyes to how in-depth, varied and interesting nursing could be. By the time I came out I had decided that was what I wanted to do. 

I retired last year after a long and rewarding career. I still think back to that experience and how it changed the course of my life. I can still remember the faces of those nurses and the compassion and capability with which they delivered care to all us patients.


It opened my eyes to how in-depth, varied and interesting nursing could be


Read next...


Read next...