Jobs: Advice on how to change careers from someone who has
15:26 28 January 2016
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Sarah Cassells swapped a writing career for a staff nurse post and explains why life experience and transferable skills could be the secret to making a change.
Four years ago I was interviewing well-known faces from the world of television, sport and culture. Nigella Lawson shared her beauty secrets, Dr Who’s Matt Smith talked about his student life at UEA, and Amanda Holden gushed about her love of the region.
My job as features writer for the Eastern Daily Press Norfolk magazine involved fashion shoots with Norwich City players, a turkey dinner with Marco Pierre White and interviews with local Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
Today I’m still motivated by and interested in people’s stories, but my lines of inquiry have changed. Now I want to know what has brought the patients in my care into hospital.
I might need to know the location and characteristics of their pain or why someone is not engaging with their treatment. Sometimes I simply want to know how they are feeling and, unless you work in healthcare, you would not understand how encouraging someone to detail their bowel habits can be revelatory about their health.
I was 30 when I left my office job and enrolled on the adult nursing degree at UEA in January 2012. It was something I had been thinking seriously about for the previous year.
When I told people my plan they thought I was a bit mad. I had a very covetable job and a reputation for wearing four-inch heels. But, according to a recent survey by Standard Life, more than half of UK workers are currently considering a new career, with the desire for change at its strongest among those aged 25-34.
Before making the change I researched the job. I attended open days for healthcare courses, talked to friends who had completed their nurse training and looked into the financial resources available.
I made sure I understood the challenges too. One nurse warned me that she often finished a 12.5-hour shift without having time to drink all day. A recently-qualified nurse explained how exhausting it could be juggling full-time training with academic assignments and extra paid shifts.
When my course began, I soon realised that my first career had equipped me with a wealth of transferable skills. I used my communication strengths to develop therapeutic relationships with my patients and interact with doctors and other healthcare professionals.
During my degree studies, I enjoyed critically analysing research and best practice that I could apply to my care plans. I applied my skills in writing to deadline and time management to my university assignments and was awarded best overall academic achievement when I graduated with first class honours last year.
I also discovered the value of maturity and life experience in changing career. I have met many outstanding newly-qualified nurses who trained after A-levels, but at 18 the idea of providing personal care to a deteriorating patient would have been terrifying to me. Well over a decade after leaving school I feel more confident, patient and able to prioritise.
My two careers have also made me sensitive towards the media’s coverage of nursing. There are typically stories of outstanding courage, such as the nurses risking their lives to fight Ebola, or those where terrible crimes have been committed by people in positions of responsibility,.
I would love to see us portrayed as we are: human; often exhausted, always compassionate.
At 4am on a night shift I do fantasise about a nice desk job. On days off I enjoy long periods of sitting down. But when people hear about my career change it is always met with surprise and positivity.
I loved my job as a writer, but nursing gives me an enormous sense of fulfilment. Changing careers should be about building on your strengths and passions. I identify myself as a nurse, but it is thanks to both careers that you are reading my name in print now.
For more information about careers in nursing, visit www.nmc.org.uk and www.jobs.nhs.uk