Hayley Scutts reflects on an inspiring and intrepid route to a nursing career – which started as a patient

My journey into nursing originally started in 2014. At that time, I had established a ten-year career in designing a range of furniture interiors, but I also found myself in and out of hospital with an undiagnosed condition for over years.

After one of my surgeries, an advanced nurse practitioner saw me on the morning ward round. She took the time to not only look at my recovery from surgery but also my entire past medical history.

She then went out of her way and put in place everything I needed to finally get a diagnosis and the correct treatment. This lady gave me back my life. She inspired me so much, as until that point I had not realised the impact that one person could have.

Every time I went up to the hospital for treatment, I kept seeing a ‘We need Nurses’ banner and this message hit a little deeper each time. So, I gave up my career, sold my car, enrolled on an access to nursing course and after successful completion of that I commenced a nursing degree with Oxford Brookes University.

My aim was to make a difference in people’s lives, in the same way one dedicated nurse made a difference to mine.

Back to life

My first year of nursing was eventful – I became pregnant through IVF. My husband and I had been trying to conceive for years and, due to complications, we didn’t know if it would be possible.

So, we started our IVF journey alongside my nursing. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and we lost our baby. On the second attempt, however, we were incredibly lucky and nine months later, gave birth to our son Lennon.

When Lennon came into the world, he had to be resuscitated and spent the first months of his life in a Neonates Intensive Care Unit in Bristol. He was not expected to survive the ambulance journey, let alone the first week, but he proved everyone wrong.

We were also told he had trisomy 21, commonly known as Down’s Syndrome. When he finally came home – and my maternity leave was over – it was time for me to go back into my nursing to finish the final two years of my nursing course.

Unfortunately, at this point I was unable to afford the next two years of my degree. I was devastated by this, but we decided to make the most of things and we moved to Cornwall in the hope of giving Lennon a better life.

Nursing a dream

I took a role as an ‘Independent living assessor’ for a charity, working alongside occupational therapists and physiotherapists to supply specialist mobility equipment to people with disabilities. We needed extra support with our son so a year later we moved to Warwickshire, where we were able to access more support. I joined the South Warwickshire Foundation Trust as an Occupational Therapy Assistant and while in this role, the opportunity arose to apply for the Nursing Associate Foundation degree at Coventry University.

I applied straightaway and was so excited to be accepted. This was my chance again to be a nurse! The course gave me the opportunity to work, earn a wage, learn and get a nursing qualification. I started the foundation degree in April 2018 and my passion and enthusiasm for nursing was even stronger than the day I made my original decision.

The course came with so many different opportunities and experiences through placements and I embraced them all. I was fortunate enough to take the apprenticeship route to work and learn from some of the most remarkable healthcare assistants, nurses, mentors and other people from the multidisciplinary teams.

The course definitely comes with its challenges and the biggest one for me was balancing work, studies and a home-life. With the support from my lecturers, practice facilitators and other members of my cohort, however, I got through it. There was nothing that could not be overcome, and every experience made me stronger as a nursing associate and a person. I also made friends for life along the way.

The influencer

Throughout my training, I also dedicated time to help other members of my cohort with their academic studies. Many of us had not had the opportunity to study in higher education but, because I had the first year of a nursing degree, I could use my experience and knowledge to help others with planning assignments, creating their portfolios and assisting better understanding of things like referencing.

I qualified just after the coronavirus pandemic hit at the end of March 2020 and had applied for a position in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Warwick Hospital. It was a difficult time for all the frontline staff with so many patients being admitted with COVID-19 but I am incredibly lucky for the support I had from both my family and the Trust.

Throughout the pandemic we had staff from different areas join us on the ICU and although I had not been there that long, I already found myself sharing my knowledge and helping support the teaching of these new staff members. Then, when student placements returned, I loved working with the students, sharing my knowledge and watching them develop throughout their placement.

I left the Trust a year and a half later to start on the top-up course, however around the same time there was an advert for an assistant lecturer post within the Nursing Associate team at Coventry University.

I was thrilled to see that this post was open for a Nursing Associate to apply, as I always thought a post such as this would only be an opportunity for me much later in my nursing career. I felt that within this role, I could bring my passion for both teaching others as well as anatomy and physiology.

I also realised that as the Nursing Associate role is still a recent position within the NHS, I would be able to share my own experiences with the students. I applied for the role and was awarded the position, so I started with the Nursing Associate lecturing team at the beginning of October last year.

I feel very privileged to now be teaching students at Coventry University as well as having joined a great team. I remain on the shift bank at the Trust as I want to try and keep my clinical skills up to date.

The message that we need more nurses has not changed. We need more passionate, caring people to join the profession and I would highly recommend an apprenticeship as a inspirational route into this enduring profession.