Ken Chilton

My Journey as a Student Nurse

BNurs (Hons) Adult Nursing

I was recently asked to recount my journey as a student nurse, which I am highly honoured to do.

I left school at an early age, which was through my own error of judgement, taking with me no qualifications to get me on the road to a good career. At age 21, I got married to my amazing wife Victoria and for a short period everything was great. I managed to land a job as a retail manager until a few years later, when I was made redundant. At this time, my wife and I had started a family, two amazing twin girls.

We decided to use my redundancy pay towards gaining my HGV driving qualification and I managed to get a job working at the council as a waste disposal driver. The pay wasn’t the best but it was a job, a way to keep a roof over my family’s head. My wife worked part-time as a call centre advisor for a bank and for years had wanted to train to become a primary school teacher; being the positive and enthusiastic person she is, she went to college to do her A-levels and was accepted into university to do her teaching degree. I was so proud of her, and in a way jealous as I was stuck doing a job I hated with no qualifications to better myself. My wife and I had a long chat about our future and she encouraged me to go back to college and get my GCSEs and A-levels.

Going to college wasn’t easy, my wife had become a full-time student at the University of Wolverhampton and I had enrolled into night college, while still working in the day. Money was tight with having a family and bills to pay, and we felt at times that we never saw each other. We made an agreement: when Vicky finished university and got a job as a teacher, I would try and get into university. The thought of me at university – no chance!

Nevertheless, I worked hard and applied anyway, getting the grades I needed to apply to do Adult Nursing. My mum was a nurse and I had always felt that I too wanted to help those in need. One of my fondest childhood memories was walking around with the sweet lady at the old Royal Hospital, selling sweets to the patients. At first, I was embarrassed to say I wanted to be a nurse due to being a man, but life experience has taught me not to be offended by those with small minds. I was also nervous I wouldn’t be accepted, but weeks went by and I received an email from the University of Wolverhampton, offering me an interview for the Adult Nursing degree. I was ecstatic – the last time I was this excited was the day I found out we were having twins.

The day of the interview came and I was extremely nervous, but I knew I could do this for myself, my wife and my beautiful little girls. When I entered the room, Clare Corness-Parr introduced herself as the head of Adult Nursing and was so helpful and really easy to talk to. A month or so later, I received an email – I had got in! I knew the easy part was done, now was the time to knuckle down. While I was waiting to start university, I was in an accident at work which gave me a bulging disc, and the doctor told me I needed surgery due to the disc being in danger of severing my nerves. The date for the surgery was two days before my first day at university, but I wasn’t going to let this bring me down. I had my surgery on Monday, got discharged on Tuesday and I went to the University on Wednesday. My first day wasn’t easy, but with the help from fellow students and support from my family, I was there and determined to succeed.

My first year of university went so fast, I felt like a sponge absorbing everything. I’d only ever cared for family, so working within a hospital was a big learning curve. When you become part of the NHS workforce, you become part of a huge family where the help and support from your mentors, tutors and work colleagues is amazing. My second year came so fast, it felt like I had blinked and it was here. The toughest part of the second year was towards the end, with the four main assignments due in around the same time. This was an even bigger obstacle, as my mother had suffered a myocardial infarction and she was a big support for me and my wife taking care of my twins whilst we were at work and university. I contacted my personal tutor Sarah Gaytten and she was a godsend, giving me the support I needed to get through my assignments and placement and to graduate from my second year of university.

During my summer break, after my second year of university, my wife and I had saved up to take our girls to Lanzarote – a post-celebration for my wife getting a First degree in Primary Education and striving to succeed through the last few years. Whilst on holiday, an unfortunate accident had occurred: a little girl had drowned in the pool close to where I was sitting. I heard a scream for help and ran straight over. As I pulled the girl from the pool, I was shocked to see that the girl was not breathing, her lips and face were as blue as the water and I couldn’t feel a pulse. A man in the pool asked if she was ok and I said I’m not sure, she is not breathing and at that point I called out for help and initiated CPR. After two cycles of CPR, the little girl screamed out, I felt a sigh of relief, she was breathing once again. At this point, the man in the pool thanked me, as it turned out he was the little girl’s dad.

I was a nervous wreck afterwards, waiting for the little girl to return from the hospital so I would know she was okay. Two days later, on the evening a family approached me, it was the girl with her parents – they gave me the biggest hug and thanked me. I was filled with emotion and couldn’t stop crying. My family and I still keep in contact with the family, they sent me a picture of her on her first day at secondary school, saying this wouldn’t have been possible without me. Without the training and the support I had received from the University, it may have been a different story. I did what any other father would have done and helped a child in need.

I am proud to say, I am now in my third year and loving my life and potential future. I am proof that you are never too old or too restricted to achieve something that you really want in life, and in ten months’ time, I will be determined to wear those blues with pride.