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Sarah, 29, has just completed a three-year BN (Child) Student Nurse Programme at the University of Chester and graduates later this year.

She said: “My gorgeous nephew Zach was born at 29.5 weeks and was cared-for by the amazing team on the Neonatal Unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital. It was there that my love for nursing started – and my nursing journey began.

“I never thought I could be a nurse because of my school grades. But I remember my brother telling me I definitely could and that I was amazing at helping care for mum. 

“So, I completed an Access to Higher Education Diploma online, while working full time as an assistant manager. I did it in 10 months and it was hard work, but I got there.”

Sarah is from Chester, so studying at the local university was an easy choice. “I’ve lived here most of my life and I love the city. I’d heard a lot of good stuff about the University and I made my decision at the open day, where everyone was really friendly and welcoming.

“It was a great choice. I’ve spoken to students from other universities while on placements and they can’t believe how many different hospitals we get to work at and the variety of work placements we experience.”

As well as working in local hospitals, Sarah enjoyed a three-week placement in Arusha, Tanzania. She said: “It was such an amazing, eye-opening experience. I went with one of my course friends and we observed many births and some surgery, carried out vital signs monitoring on mothers and babies and took part in ward rounds with the doctors and nurses.

“It was fascinating to see how different things are done in other places and how different the hospital setting and environment was. I feel so lucky to have experienced this placement abroad.”

Sarah also experienced the high-pressure environment of a paediatric A&E department. “This was completely out of my comfort zone, but I fell in love with it and learned so many new skills. It was such an exciting and rewarding placement.”

Sarah says the student nursing course is 50/50 blocks of practice or theory. “Not having them mixed together allows you to concentrate on one particular aspect of the course.”

She says good time management has been key to her success. “Studying and working while looking after my mum has been extremely difficult and I do wonder sometimes how I’ve done it. Luckily I have an extremely supportive family and the University was really supportive, too. My tutor always went the extra mile for me, offering time extensions on my assignments if I needed them and advice sand support throughout – which I really appreciated.”

Sarah hopes that in the not-too-distant future she’ll become a specialised neonatal nurse and eventually, a health visitor. She’d also love the experience of working in another country again one day and her new qualification, she says, means she’ll never stop learning.

“There are so many different routes you can take in nursing and you are learning and developing your skills all the time. I have the opportunity to live where I want and being a nurse means I’ll always have a job.”

Sarah’s tutor, Lucy Wallace, Programme Leader, Children and Young Peoples Nursing, said: “What Sarah has achieved while being a carer for her mum is exceptional. It’s been a tough three-year journey for her, but she’ll make an outstanding children’s nurse.”

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