International Nurses Day: Chelsea starts her Student Nursing Associate journey
My first job in a care home was as a kitchen assistant when I was 16. Being on the floor and delivering food, I found a connection with residents and when I was 18, I became an HCA (Healthcare Assistant). I wanted to challenge myself because I’ve always had a passion for caring for people – I look after my grandparents – but at the same time, I worried that I couldn’t do the personal care side of things.
I then went to Egypt for four years and returned in January 2020. I started working at Royal Star & Garter in March, just as lockdown happened. When I came to the Home for my interview, I could tell it was amazing. I met some of the residents and thought it was an incredible place. Starting work in a care home as the pandemic struck was really difficult. I didn’t know the residents that well, but I could tell how much it was affecting them not being able to see their families. It was heart-breaking.
When I joined I started an NVQ Level 3 Health & Social Care which I completed in just 10 weeks, because all I was doing was work, coming home, studying and going back to work! I became a Lead HCA about seven months later.
I heard about the SNA programme soon after I started, because my colleagues Marco (now a qualified NA) and Mercy (who is very close to qualifying as a NA) had just started the course, and they were telling me about it. My goal was to get into nursing in any way possible. When the chance came to apply, I did so straight away. It was something I really wanted to do. I want to give more and I want to have a better understanding of the clinical side of care as well. I do so much in my job as a Lead HCA but the nurses have the paperwork side of everything, the care plans, the medication, end of life when it sadly comes to it.
Being put forward for the SNA course by the charity meant the world to me. I was so proud of myself, and I can’t thank everyone enough for the faith they have in me, and the support.
I am now seven months into my course, and I have loved every minute of it. I feel I have already learnt so much in such a short period of time and I am already looking at things during my work hours from a Nurse’s perspective. I have passed my physiology and anatomy exam with 71% which was more than what I thought I would achieve, and I could not be prouder of myself for doing so well. I have also just submitted my first assignment and I’m currently waiting for the results. This was definitely a challenge for me as I had not written an essay for almost 10 years and have never had to reference anything in my life, but I had so much support around me from the university as well as the Nurses from Royal Star & Garter. I still have days where I doubt myself but I then look back at where I started and how far I have already come and remind myself that I can do this.
Back in February I went to my first placement, which was in Wycombe Hospital. It was definitely a different experience for me and very different from working in a care home. I found myself surrounded by Nurses, Doctors and patients who needed clinical care that I had not seen before. I had the chance to learn about iron infusions and blood transfusions and got to see first-hand the side effects that medications can have on a person. The team I worked with on placement were all so welcoming and supportive, and I am grateful for all the support that they gave me.
I really enjoyed my placement and was sad when it ended. However, I was so happy to back at Royal Star & Garter as I missed the residents and team. My next placement is in July, but I don’t yet know where I’ll be going. But I’m very excited!
The students I’m with at university all have different backgrounds. I love hearing their stories and what they do, and I can’t wait to sample other working environments. It’s nice to see and hear different aspects of the health and social care sector because every setting is different.
I’ve had so much support at Royal Star & Garter. Marco and Mercy are always asking how I’m getting on and if they can help me in any way, and seeing how they have grown in confidence over the past two years is so inspiring. The Home Manager and all the staff have been so supportive – if I have down days, they’re there to pick me up.
Once I finish in two years’ time I want to top-up and become a Registered Nurse. I want to progress in my career through Royal Star & Garter and go as far as I can. Since my first placement I have had a great interest in the cardiovascular system and thinking to my future, I want to go into cardiovascular nursing. I know this will be a challenge, but if I challenge myself enough I know I can do anything. I’ve found a job that doesn’t feel like a job – it feels like a happy family, and it’s so nice.