The Natural Detective

Do we ever know what we want to be or do when we get older? I never really did. We were brought up by my mum, who was a Nurse, and I was always fascinated to hear all the stories of life’s idiosyncrasies, the good the bad and the ugly. I’m very much a people person and have always thought myself a natural detective, though some would say nosey!

I packed my bags one summer, when I was just 18 years old. I had decided I wanted to work and not study anymore, so I trained as a Registered Nurse near Gatwick, in a hospital that served the whole M25 area.

When my Mum and Dad dropped me off, I found my living quarters would be one room with a sink, in an old asylum. The corridors were old, hostile, grey and cold, but somehow, I loved it. One week into induction and we were on the wards. Nursing in my time was not a degree course but assumed a certain attitude and required you to use your initiative.

Training as a Registered Nurse

I was assigned to all areas of medicine, such as General Surgery, General Medicine, Theatres, Gynaecology, Paediatrics, Obstetrics, Orthopaedics, Gastroenterology, Cardiology, A and E and Intensive Care, to name but a few. I loved my training, in the main, it was a time to learn so many new things, form new friendships and build a career I loved.

Throughout my time in Surrey, I tried to make the most of the experience. When I qualified and everyone was moving on it was very emotional. I realised how far I had come and how I had grown as a person. When my parents said goodbye to me on my first day, it didn’t seem real. I was excited to be living independently, but slowly the reality hit home and I did have days when I missed my familiar hometown, Cardiff, my home and the friends I’d grown up with.

At first you may feel overwhelmed, I had to juggle cooking for myself, organising my life and coping with my studies and ward placements. Little by little I adapted to each situation. I really do think my nursing experiences were the basis for the rest of my working life and how I coped in life as a person.

When we had finished our training, it was time to move on. It was sad having to leave the hospital and nurses’ home, that I then saw as a safe place and a place I called home, but I had grown in confidence and decided I’d like to use my nursing skills to travel. So that’s what I did. I went to America and New Zealand and used my skills and experience as much as I could.


When I came back from travelling, I decided to do my degree in London and become a Psychologist. I was flying high with all the possibilities that were out there for me. I was lucky that I was able to work as a nurse at the same time as studying in London, which meant I didn’t get into debt. Many of my shifts were at my old hospital and Whitechapel Hospital, which is full of history. You could see where Joseph Merrick, known as the Elephant Man, had apparently stayed from the window of one of the wards.

The Psychologist thing didn’t happen; I found that I didn’t want to do it in the end, but I know I could have pursued it if I’d wanted to.

A Teaching Degree

Let’s now move forward a few years. As I steadily worked in different areas of medicine, I decided my next step was to do a Teaching Degree. Having successfully done this, I taught at different levels from Primary school age to University level. I also taught Health subjects for a few years at a couple of colleges.

Coronavirus hit

As I settled down and moved to Nottingham, I started my medical business. It seems a fitting end to incorporate all things medical and educational. It’s a private medical business, which allows me to use both my medical and teaching skills to help people understand and improve their health. Unfortunately, Coronavirus hit us and we are now in unchartered waters. My business, like so many, had to close in the short term, so how was I going to pay my mortgage and my bills?

Plan B

So, I turned to Plan B, and decided to go back to nursing to help out in the Covid-19 crisis. I rang the NHS HR Department and was snapped up. I’m now working on the front line, as a key worker in the community as a District Nurse. I feel that I have come full circle. I’m still using my skills to help out in these uncertain times and I’m really loving the change and variety again. Hospitals are discharging patients as soon as they can, so beds are available for mounting emergency cases. This means we have all sorts of cases in the community that we have to use our clinical judgment and experience on. Often we are lone workers making critical decisions and we may even be called to verify deaths.

My early days of nursing and studying are firmly behind me now but, taking up nursing again, I feel that I have never really left. My nursing foundation was firmly cemented into my DNA, and it really is the basis that I have had to work on.

You can do anything you choose to and I believe anything is possible. Looking back, I now feel I’ve COME FULL CIRCLE.

Keep smiling!

Janet Stafford BSc