We recently caught up with OU nursing Alumni, David Ferran, now a Deputy Charge Nurse in the Royal Victoria Hospital and a Practice Tutor for the OU, to talk about all things nursing, from why he went into the profession to his experience of studying with the OU and life as a nurse during the pandemic.
Tell us a bit about your background and what led you to study to become a nurse?
I left school aged 17 with little direction as to what I wanted to do or be. I stumbled upon healthcare when I got offered a job as a Community Support Worker, supporting young people living with a brain injury in their own homes.
At 18, my aim was to work in a large hospital and after gaining some experience I started working and training as a Cardiographer / Cardiac Ambulance Technician at my local hospital. Within this role I worked alongside nurses and I could see the knowledge, skill and positive impact their work had on patients, their families and carers. This was especially evident in traumatic and upsetting situations, such as attending out of-hospital cardiac arrests which was part of my role. Watching how the nurse-maintained control of the situation, used their knowledge and skills and how they calmly communicated with such compassion. This was when I knew wanted to do the same. I then applied to become a Nursing Assistant with the aim of getting more experience then securing sponsorship to become an OU student nurse, luck was on my side and within a year I had begun my nursing degree.
What made you chose the OU to complete your nursing degree?
I spotted a poster advertising the OU pre-registration nursing degree in a hospital corridor; I didn’t know it existed before. When I read the poster, I immediately knew this was the pathway for me and one that completely fitted in with my life commitments as someone who was a little bit older. I couldn’t afford to leave my job to become a full-time student so the partnership between my employer and the OU enabled me to study and earn through employee sponsorship.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in nursing?
I’ve been surrounded by strong nursing role models throughout my life. My mum was a nursing assistant when I was younger, and I was lucky in that my previous jobs gave me great insight into the profession. Ultimately, I’ve always enjoyed working with people. I wanted to do something that could potentially make a difference to people’s lives and nursing gives me the opportunity to do that every day. It’s a real privilege, building relationships with people based on trust is key; people need to feel safe in your care. Nursing has so many varied roles and potential pathways; it’s a versatile career and is very rewarding.
What was the most challenging element of studying to be a nurse and did you ever feel like giving up?
The most challenging element for me was managing my time. Working full time, studying for a degree, placements, keeping time for family and friends, it can be difficult. But like many things practice makes perfect, as time went on, I learnt how to manage my time efficiently enough to fit everything in and still get some downtime to relax with family and friends. I never felt like giving up, but I did have a few stressful moments while preparing for exams and assignment deadlines. Having a strong support network that included other student nurses who are in the same position and my tutors helped to keep me on track and complete my degree.
Do you feel like the OU or studying nursing has changed you as a person and if so, how?
It might sound a bit of a cliché but studying to become a nurse with the Open University has been life changing for me. I am definitely more confident in myself and my abilities; leaving school at 17 and going immediately into employment, I never thought I would have a degree. I thought I blew any chance of further education; the OU gave me the second chance I needed. It may have taken me until I was 30 to get there, but I got there in the end. Working as a nurse can give you insight into other people’s lives, their struggles and worries. This really helps to put things into perspective within my own life, to appreciate the simple things, take nothing for granted as things can change in a second.
How did you fit your studies around your life?
I made good use of the OU study calendar. Having a plan and being disciplined helped me to focus. My family and work colleagues were very supportive which also helped greatly. Distance learning suited my life, I could study when and where I liked which meant I could fit it in around my busy work schedule. The support from OU academic and practice tutors was first class, day or night I could get the support I needed or simply an ear to listen.
You are now working with the nurses of the future in your role as a Practice Tutor. What led you to take on this work?
Throughout my studies I was supported by an amazing team of Practice and Academic Tutors, without them I would never have graduated as a nurse. I would like to do the same for people beginning their own journey to becoming a nurse. Just this year one of the Nursing Assistants within my own department has begun her studies with the OU and it’s been a privilege to be in a position to support and encourage her, I’ve been there before and know how tough it can be. With the right support and people around you anything is achievable. I’m hoping to replicate that support with my cohort of students; using my lived experience as an OU nursing student to enable me to help others.
What has it been like working in the NHS during the pandemic?
The past year has been incredibly difficult, and the pressures continue today. The pandemic has put nursing in the spotlight. I’ve been contacted by people who have seen the work of nurses in the media and it has inspired them to apply to become nurses themselves, this is something to be proud of as a profession. Over the past year we have had to adapt quickly, from redeploying to areas in need of help, to vaccinating our most vulnerable. I’ve undertaken lots of different nursing roles since last March whilst also becoming an OU Practice Tutor. This shows just how versatile and varied nursing is and how essential the nursing role is to public health. Although, in order to care for others, we also need to care for ourselves. The sense of teamwork and mutual support from my colleagues has been incredible, it makes a very difficult period a little bit easier to cope with.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about becoming a nurse?
Since qualifying as a nurse I’ve have had the pleasure of promoting nursing as Co-chair of Northern Irelands Valuing Diversity in Nursing group. Using health promotion as the medium to engage with the public we have promoted good physical and mental health, provided CPR training and shared our knowledge of many nursing roles. I was even lucky enough to promote nursing at my secondary school last year. Nursing has consistently been named one of the most trusted professions in the UK, despite this there are many misconceptions of our role. To anyone considering nursing or indeed to anyone who hasn’t considered nursing I would advise them to engage with the profession, talk to nurses and find out more. There is a role within nursing for everyone and there are many opportunities for work experience within our local hospitals and other care settings. Nursing is a fantastic and rewarding career, I couldn’t think of doing anything else.
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