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Case Study: Donna Bruce

Trainee Nursing Associate Donna Bruce

Trainee Nursing Associate, Donna gives a light-hearted and insightful view into life as a trainee and how she found the inspiration to start a career in healthcare. 

"My name is Donna, age 53 (well nearer 54) and I’m currently on the Trainee Nursing Associate programme.

"I tend to announce, quite proudly, that I am one of the more mature students on the programme. I sit at the front of the class due to the fact I cannot see the board and cannot hear the teacher that well either, accompanied by Jenny and Jade who tend to keep me under control. My kids call me Dory!

"I'm married to Pete and have five children (Jenna 31, Andrew 28, Tom 26 and twins Williams and James, age 15), oh and not forgetting five grandchildren! William and James were a BIG ‘Surprise’, at the ripe old age of 39 to be expecting twins was not in our and my plans of a nursing career had to be put on the back burner again.

"I left school at 16 with GCEs in French and Needlework (I can see you all laughing now) and started work the following Monday at Barclays Bank. I loved working there and realised that the best part of my job was the people. I know it sounds a bit ‘corny’ but it is one thing I can say about myself and I think most people would agree, I am a people person. I had several jobs following this one, mainly part time to ‘fit in’ around the kids, these were always Customer service or Reception jobs at the local council and my last was at our local college dealing with young adults.

"I always knew I wanted to become a nurse, but when I was at school the thought of going to university and leaving my mum and dad alone, with my three older sisters, without me, was too much!

"My mother in law, Margaret, and a lovely Macmillan nurse by the name of Lucy, encouraged me to pursue my career in Nursing. Margaret who had stomach cancer, had refused treatment and her wish was to come home to die, the conversations we had about the family, dreams and expectations were inspiring, and Margaret’s funniest yet saddest words to me were her views on dying when she said, 'I didn’t think it would take this long.' She was an amazing lady.

"I had applied for many hospital jobs but was never successful, so I did some voluntary work as a tea lady on the ward at The George Elliot Hospital in Nuneaton. I loved it, my sense of humour and the banter with the patients made my day, and I hope theirs too. I then decided to take the plunge and did an Access course in Health studies, this really pushed me both mentally and physically, but I passed and from this got a job as a HCA at Glenfield Hospital. I started in ITU, however knew that this was not enough for me, there was no interaction with the very poorly. I then moved to cardiology ward 28. I was successful in getting onto the Trainee Nursing Associate Programme and receive lots of support from Matron, my mentor and colleagues (my base ward is still ward 28).

"A typical day begins with the handover, here we find out what the plans and procedures are for our patients.  I am paired with a Registered Nurse who generally guides me in the daily routine. The morning drug round is a priority, followed by ensuring our patients are prioritised with their needs; washes, dressings changed, observations kept up to date, paperwork and discharge plans along with communicating with the MDT.  No day is ever the same, what seems to be straight forward can sometimes be thrown into turmoil such as an unexpected cardiac arrest, or a deteriorating patient.

"I have also had many opportunities to attend theatre and observe. My most exciting experience was when I observed a triple heart bypass, from the patient being put to sleep, the operation, and after care in ICU was amazing. My alternative placements have been just as exciting, new skills and understanding of different areas has helped enormously with my studies.  My last placement was on a renal ward, lots of poorly patients with complicated needs and many needing dialysis.  I observed a kidney transplant, I shall never look at chicken breast in quite the same way! Another completely mind-blowing experience.

"I am now being given responsibility for my own patients, obviously still being guided by a Registered Nurse,  and this is giving me the confidence I need. I am beginning to question and understand why things are being done and what needs to be done and at the end of the day I am giving my own handovers, who would have thought that of me?

"Anyone considering doing the course should think carefully! If you can handle your normal routine being thrown out the window, juggling family life, work and studies, assignments and the horrible Harvard referencing, yet getting complete satisfaction at the end of a shift then go for it.

"It’s undeniably challenging work, but I will get there and will be very proud at the end of it! Oh, one last tip…invest in a good comfy pair of shoes!"