I have always wanted to be a nurse

Dr Nicky Genders - International Nurses' Day 2017

Dr Nicky Genders is a learning disability nurse and Head of the School of Care Sciences at USW.

"I was four years old when this photo was taken at our home in Leicester. Ours was a large, extended family, so there was always someone younger or older than you who needed your help and support.

It was around the age of eight that I first remember wanting to become a nurse. I remember thinking it would be really nice to care for people and help them to become well.

This changed when I was in my teens. I started volunteering in a unit for children with quite complex disabilities; I would go in and read to them. It was at this point, I think, that I realised that you could be a nurse, and perform all the ‘traditional’ caring duties, but you could also help people towards their own independence.

At that time, the image of nursing was very much hospital based - Florence Nightingale healing the wounded! But here was this other side of nursing that was concerned with helping people who were often well to get the best out of their lives, regardless of their abilities. And this appealed to me, and my core values, very much.

I qualified as a learning disability nurse in the mid 80s and have stayed within this field my whole nursing career. For me, it offers a variety like no other.

One day you can be caring for someone with really complex needs, that requires all of your nursing skills like setting up an enteral feed or managing their medication needs. The following day, you could be getting on a bus and accompanying a person to a GPs appointment.

Learning disability nursing is about ensuring that the most vulnerable people in our society get access to the healthcare they need, so that they can live full and happy lives. For the learning disability nurse this means the promotion of health, wellbeing and independence of people with a learning disability and their families and carers.

In my current role in education, I am constantly reminded of the need to have a broad definition of nursing. Nurses today work in a wide range of environments supporting those who are well to stay well and those who need additional support to access health care and to receive the best possible care to move them towards independence."

Read our other International Nurses' Day stories