I can pursue my nursing dreams without giving up my job

Matthew Tovey is studying the part time nursing degree

Matthew Tovey, 27, from Merthyr Tydfil, is an assistant practitioner at Troedyfan Medical Practice. Matt signed up for the nursing bank in his early twenties, working in various departments across Prince Charles Hospital before settling in primary care, where his manager nominated him for the Cert HE Healthcare Support Worker Education course at USW. 

"I found the HCSW course challenging at times, especially while working full time, but passing the course gave me a sense of achievement that I never had before. This empowered me to apply for my current job at the medical practice, where I combine my work with the part-time nursing course." 

What attracted you to the flexible nursing course?
It allows me to keep my post in the GP surgery which I really enjoy, using the skills I have learned through my career whilst expanding my knowledge and learning new skills I can bring back to the team. The flexible learning route allows us to keep our wage. This is a huge bonus. I have always wanted to enrol on the nurse degree course however as I live alone and have a car, without the financial help it would have been impossible for me to take on.

Are you getting any help from your employer with your fees?
My employer has not changed my contract, I get paid my full-time wage, my student hours (23 learning hours) is backfilled by workforce education development services to my employer.

Why do you want to become a nurse?
I have fond memories of my first work experience in a care home when I was 16, It was really rewarding making the patients laugh. It taught me that my input had a direct effect on other people’s lives, no matter how small. I think that’s where my passion was born. I am very enthusiastic and compassionate with a genuine desire to help people; I believe these qualities will make me a good nurse.

Are you enjoying the nursing course so far?
The course is challenging at times which is not always a bad thing as it can teach you a lot about yourself. The part I enjoy the most is the camaraderie between peers, you really do meet a lot of great people who are going through the same experience. I suppose that’s what creates lasting friendships. My knowledge base has expanded greatly and I am enjoying learning and teaching others what I know.

What have you learnt about nursing?
Nursing is ever changing, it is exciting, and you must constantly keep your knowledge up to date and be committed to lifelong learning to provide best care to your patients. Nursing has also taught me a lot of life lessons that have helped me grow as person.

What’s it like to study and work at the same time?
Being a health care support worker and a student complement each other well. Working for the NHS for over ten years has given me great experience and interpersonal skills that are essential for being a student. Having background knowledge in the field equips you with a confidence in your work as student. As a student I am constantly expanding my knowledge; this again gives me more confidence with patients in my current role. A negative aspect is that I am not allowed to use the skills I have acquired though my job when on placement as a student, like venipuncture for example. It can be frustrating that you have the skills but are not able to help the staff when they are busy.

What aspect of academic life has been the hardest to adjust to?
I have always been a hands-on learner so I found going back to education daunting. I didn't have much self-belief that I would be able to complete the academic side. However I quickly learnt that there is a wide support network that I was able to access. Also, I was not alone with my feelings - a lot of my peers felt the same. I am so glad I seized the opportunity. As the saying goes ‘you don’t know unless you try’.

What career options will be open to you when you finish?
When I become a registered nurse, I hope to return to the practice I currently work in. I really enjoy working in primary care there is still plenty to learn and have a great rapport with the patients and the staff alike.

Picture shows Matthew with Beverly Hills, practice nurse at Troedyfan Medical Practice