Alumni

USW graduate Michelle lands the job she always wanted

Adult nursing graduate Michelle Thomas is about to become a district nurse in Newport. Neil Gibson, March 2018

Michelle Thomas is about to become a district nurse in Newport.


She’s been a secretary, an engineer, a saleswoman, headed a supermarket department, and been a bra-fitter, so taking on her new role as a district nurse is quite a change for Michelle Thomas.

But it’s a position that the 47-year-old University of South Wales (USW) graduate, who lives in Newport, feels she should have been doing years ago.

Originally from Bolton, the mum of two grown-up children – Matthew, 26, and Alex, 22 – left school after her O-levels, and originally became a secretary at an engineering firm in her home town.

“It’s what people did at the time,” she explained. “But when I joined the firm they saw that I had a real gift for maths, saw I could do much more, and I was trained as a steel engineer, which involved going to different companies to explain the materials they needed to use.”

Having worked in this role in Bolton for eight years, and then moved to a similar job for 12 years in Llanelli, a change was forced on Michelle.

“The steel industry collapsed here in 2000, with foreign competition having done for UK businesses,” she explained.

Unperturbed, Michelle went immediately back into admin work. This didn’t last long, however, as another of her skills was unearthed.

“I was working for a car dealership and the boss discovered I was quite a saleswoman,” she explained. “Over a few years I worked for some big names – Peugeot, Mercedes, BMW – and one point was headhunted.”

However, now a single mum of two young children, Michelle found the hours didn’t suit and another change of direction was needed.

“Again I went into admin, this time working for a supermarket, and then worked my way up to head of department. But that was too prescriptive for me, I didn’t enjoy it,” she said.

“I obviously still had to work, I had two kids, so went to M&S as a bra-fitter.”

It was at this time that Michelle started considering returning to education. A friend had planted the idea, and she became increasingly interested.

“I wasn’t sure I’d have the time or be able to afford to study again, but the children were grown-up and I was keen to explore my options,” she said.

“I had always been interested in nursing. I have always felt I had a caring personality, and would be very good at the work.”

After being accepted to do an Access Course at Cardiff and Vale College in Cardiff, Michelle applied for a place on the Adult Nursingdegree at USW, and will graduate in July.

“I’m so glad I decided to return to education,” Michelle explained. “It’s been a lot of hard work, but anything worth having takes hard work.

“I’m starting as a district nurse around Newport, working for the Aneurin Bevan Health Board, and can’t wait to get going.

“It’s something I wish I’d done years ago. There is a time and a place to do things, and I think this is my time.

“And I’d advise others to take the plunge if they can. Don’t wait for things to happen, you need to grasp the opportunity and do what’s best for you.”   

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