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Helen Kafantari Maciver: From Healthcare Assistant to Staff Nurse via OU


Helen Kafantari Maciver at Western Isles Hospital. Photo by Leila Angus.Helen Kafantari Maciver is an Emergency Department Nurse at Western Isles Hospital. She is an OU nursing graduate.

Hoping to inspire other healthcare support workers, nursing graduate Helen Kafantari Maciver shares her journey from healthcare assistant to staff nurse, via an Open University degree. 

"I walked this beach as soon as I read the email from The Open University, confirming that I had successfully achieved a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Adult Nursing.

Helen Kafantari Maciver at a beach in the Western Isles. Photo by Leila Angus. 

I had walked this beach many times before while studying, to clear my head when feeling engulfed with all I had to do - juggling studies, work and family commitments, but also for inspiration.
This time however, I walked it with a clear head, the sea breeze in my face, a real awareness of my surroundings and a strong affinity with the beauty of nature. I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement, pride and gratefulness.

Yes! I did all the hard work myself, but it would not have been possible without the OU who provided the course, my employers who invested time and resources in me, my supportive manager, colleagues and mentors - in particular my core mentor who supported me throughout - and of course, my family.

I had never sought a career in healthcare, let alone nursing. Circumstances found me working night-shifts in the nurse-led Emergency Department of a remote and rural island hospital, as a healthcare assistant. Prior to that, I had worked for several months in a nursing home as a care assistant, having just returned to the Western Isles after living and working in Greece for 12 years.
Those jobs provided a solid base for nursing and indeed for this degree - an understanding of basic human needs, dignity, empathy and compassion - the very core of good nursing. It also brought home the fragility of life.

Helen Kafantari Maciver at Western Isles Hospital. Photo by Leila Angus.Working in a remote and rural hospital, we do not have at hand the specialist expertise and resources afforded to larger mainland hospitals. Therefore, it is essential to be multi-skilled, confident and competent to cope with all eventualities.

As a result, my role evolved over the fifteen years in line with the evolving role of the nurse practitioner, in order to effectively support the nurse practitioner and the doctor I worked with.

As a healthcare assistant, I often thought "I could do that". I realised that the situation would not change for me unless I did something to change it myself. 

So, having been asked if I would consider study nursing through The Open University, I considered it for a while.

Studying while still able to was a chance to put all these years of experience to good use and gain a qualification. It made sense and I felt privileged and worthy to have been given this opportunity.

Helen Kafantari Maciver at Western Isles Hospital. Photo by Leila Angus.In Scotland there are many remote and rural areas - it’s also very diverse. Studying from a remote or rural location does not put you at a disadvantage. Quite the opposite…you are probably already pretty resilient! 

All the resources you need are at the touch of your keyboard and within your healthcare practice environment.
This nursing degree takes into account the ever-changing healthcare system and its course content reflects this. 

The tutors are amazing and really helpful, with honest feedback. There’s help with academic writing, a huge online library, moral support and much more in between - in short, it provides all you could need as a student. All of which really helped me.

Yes! It’s challenging at times and yes, there will be obstacles but they can all be overcome. And, you are not alone. Fellow students feel the same. At the end of the day, the OU wants you to succeed and will do all it can to help. 

So, with determination, I persevered. And I’m so glad I did. Let’s face it, nothing worth getting comes easy!

It was very enjoyable. While I was studying, I felt as if it was my time - I was doing something for me and it felt good. I would log on to my OU account, excited at catching up from where I logged off last - often when the house was quiet and everyone else asleep. 

As long as you stick to deadlines for assignments, tutorials, placements etc, quite how you study is unique to you.

I am 52 years old and am now working as a staff nurse in the Emergency Department I worked in as a healthcare assistant all those years. And I am rewarded for all I do. I always looked forward to going to my work as a healthcare assistant. Now, I look forward to it even more, as I am able to work more autonomously with my patients.

To quote the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” So, go on! What's stopping you?"

Helen shared her OU story in a video message for the Class of 2020 celebrations.  

Photos by Leila Angus.


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