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Three nursing graduates tell us about their journeys, motivations and the roles they've secured in the NHS

7 min read

Next Tuesday, we’ll get to see the second cohort of graduates from the nursing degree since the course returned to Portsmouth in 2017.  They'll get to experience their big day whilst wearing their blue hooded graduation robes, unique to our Bachelor of Nursing graduates. 

Among these graduates will be Chunyan Kan, Alex Selby and Harpreet Kaur who’ve successfully completed their degrees and secured roles with the NHS. Each of these graduates have their own story to tell. Each one with their own unique journey and motivations. 

Chunyan was already a nurse in China but her qualification wasn’t transferable and therefore didn’t allow her to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. She had to study all over again and describes Portsmouth as her forever home.   

Alex found his days working in the hospital a welcomed break during the pandemic and is grateful to his university tutors who inspired and supported him.

Harpreet has juggled studying, parenting two young children and working as a health care assistant. Despite catching COVID twice, she is happy to have been in a position to help those in need.

Here are their stories...

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It was the best decision I ever made to become a student in Portsmouth because it enabled me to become so much more confident in myself, boost my nursing knowledge and improve my English skills as well.

Chunyan Kan, BN (Hons) Nursing

Tell us about your journey into nursing?

Ever since I was a child I always wanted to be a nurse. My father advised me of the profession and I'm so grateful for it. I studied to be a nurse in China when I was 19. I loved learning and wanted to continue my career progression so studied for a further five years and graduated with a nursing degree in 1998. 

I officially moved and settled in Portsmouth in 2016 after visiting the UK a few times. I realised it was my forever home! I had friends here already so it was a comfortable move as I already knew people.

I love living by the sea and enjoy walking along the beach when I can, especially because when I lived in China I was so far away from the coast! When I arrived in the UK I knew I wanted to continue my role as a nurse, so I took my English GCSE, access course at Portsmouth College and enrolled as a University of Portsmouth student so that I could achieve the UK qualifications, which differ from the education system in China. 

Why are you passionate about nursing?

As I've grown older, I’ve realised how much I love my role, especially talking to people. I have worked as a care assistant where I really enjoyed speaking with older patients, hearing about their life tips and stories. It makes my role so rewarding and satisfying.

How did you stay motivated during the pandemic?

In my final year, I worked in the community for my placement which at times was quite tough during the pandemic. I actually caught COVID myself and got very ill from it. A huge benefit from my course is how it has taught me to care and look after myself. So despite being in bed for a month, I was motivated to get better. 

I was lucky to be able to escape to my allotment so I spent a lot of time outside there with my mother (who fortunately didn’t catch COVID). It was a nice distraction and allowed me to take my mind off of other things. 

Have you secured a job after graduation?

I’m so excited to graduate and I'm looking forward to being able to celebrate the end of my degree. I received a job offer at Portsmouth’s QA Hospital in the Renal Ward. I‘ve always wanted to be a nurse and specialise in a specific area, so I can't wait to start there at the end of August.

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Speaking to nursing students from other universities I noticed the difference in the method of how training was delivered. Portsmouth’s methods elicited some envy from other students when I explained it!

Alex Selby, BN (Hons) Nursing

Tell us about your new role in Critical Care and the Intensive Care Unit (ITU):

I consider myself fortunate to have secured a job in Critical Care under a new scheme that provides training for both Coronary Care and Intensive Care. I’m approaching my new role with a combination of anticipation and apprehension but looking forward to being able to apply my training and accumulated knowledge.    

How did you stay motivated during the pandemic?

I found it a challenge as writing is not my strength and my routine collapsed being restricted to home. Days at the hospital were a welcome reprieve for me. I was working on the Isolation Unit through the first wave and for the second wave I was on placement in Palliative Care where I worked with an amazing team.  

My tutor Pauline McKeever was instrumental in helping me through the third year. COVID’s effect on how education was delivered was challenging to adapt to. Pauline was hugely supportive driving me onwards.     

How has your degree inspired you?

Portsmouth promoted their new nursing course as focusing on the practical elements of nursing, with an emphasis on clinical examinations using actors and mannequins. I felt the tutors were passionate about this new format of nursing education.   

I have met many inspirational people during my time in Portsmouth and I am proud of everyone in my cohort for graduating under unprecedented circumstances.

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What attracted me was how the course was structured and how the final year evaluation was not based on a dissertation but involved a service improvement project, which proved to be very fascinating and a valuable test of all that I had learnt.

Harpreet Kaur, BN (Hons) Nursing

Why did you choose to study at the University of Portsmouth?

I was doing a daily commute of 45 miles each way to London to work as a technician in an NHS hospital. I also have two young children and I needed to consider how to balance my studies and my family life. I was pulled towards the University of Portsmouth because it not only had the ideal course structure for nursing, it was a convenient location for me.

All my nursing experience placements were local to me which was a necessary factor because I was never too far from my family and I could also continue my part-time role as a health care assistant. 

Why do you want to work in nursing?

I previously worked as a health care assistant, but I wanted to widen my knowledge and continue learning, meet different kinds of patients and witness the different natures of diseases and treatments which affected them. I have always wanted my vocation to be involved in nursing and wished to learn more and advance my ability to contribute to the profession.

How did you find working in a hospital during COVID?

In my final year I had two on-site placements at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester which went ahead as planned but we had to wear more PPE and ensure that we were incredibly careful in our practice. It was a little scary and I had quite a few insecurities knowing that after working in a risky environment, I had to come back to my family every night, but the hospital was amazing in offering support for my children’s welfare.

Despite the risks, I was so happy to be able to contribute during the pandemic and help those who needed it. No one conceived that this could happen in their lifetime, but I am glad that I managed to be a part of the team that could help those patients. 

Outside of my university placement, I also worked with COVID patients as a health care assistant and even managed to catch COVID twice. I’m grateful and relieved that my family didn't contract it when I was isolating.

How did you find your time at Portsmouth? 

I thoroughly enjoyed my three years at the university and felt supported by all my tutors during my study for both personal and academic issues. I feel that I had underestimated my capacity to absorb new knowledge and skills during the degree course, especially in my ability to convey my learnings to others. 

In my final year I had to teach a junior student and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I relished the chance to overcome many years of an unfounded reluctance to attempt this, and the confidence gained from successfully completing the course modules empowered me to believe in both my academic and practical skills. 

I was incredibly lucky that my husband worked night-shifts, whilst I worked my placement hours during the day, and my children were very understanding that I had my studies. This meant that I never felt that I had to struggle to balance everything. 

What’s next for you after graduation?

I am really looking forward to my graduation which should be a nice day of closure and celebration. I was lucky enough to receive two NHS job offers and it was difficult to decide between them. Eventually I chose a full-time role at St Richard’s Hospital in the Private Ward which starts in September.

This way I can continue working in the same hospital with familiar colleagues who will support me and make the transition into full time work a lot easier! I’m not nervous or scared about the new role, and I am very excited and looking forward to practising as a fully-qualified nurse and experiencing new challenges.