UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 02 JULY 2021
This week marks the 73rd birthday of the NHS. In a year that has been extremely challenging for the NHS and healthcare workers, BCU has continued to power the front line, with hundreds of alumni starting work during the global pandemic.
BCU’s range of Nursing degrees continue to be some of the most popular courses that the University offers, with over a thousand nursing and midwifery graduates entering the world of work every single year.
But before 1989, the UK didn’t offer many Nursing degrees and those that did exist took place over four years.
BCU welcomed the first intake of student nurses in 1989; the very first cohort to complete the degree in three years. The course allowed students to learn as much as those on a four-year option, but in a shorter time frame. The course, headed up by former Faculty Dean Judith Hitchin and Course Director Jane Fox, soon got to work on challenging the stereotypes surrounding student nurses and preparing them for the world of work.
But what happened to the University’s very first intake? Many of them have stayed in touch, attended each other’s weddings and are proud of the strong bond they still have. After reuniting as a group in early 2020, we brought the cohort together again for an online reunion and caught up with eight of them to find out what life has brought their way.
Mark Kingston, second from left on top row. Angela Vope, third from right on bottom row. Elizabeth Bowring-Lossock, first right on middle row. Jacqui Ritchie, third from left on top row. Claire Buckle, first on left on bottom row. Nikki Sethi, second from right on bottom row. Alison Doyle, fifth from left on top row. Clare Williams, centre on middle row.
Angela, originally from Devon, moved to New Jersey, USA, early in her career before returning to the UK to grow her family.
“I grew up in Devon, and moved to Birmingham for university then finding work in Oxford as a mental health nurse before eventually moving to New Jersey. Now, I’m back in the village where I grew up.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was a teenager, but a tutor at college told me that there was a new Nursing degree that I could do in three years rather than four, and that really appealed to me.
“Before university, I thought that the course would be really hard and it would be my first time living away from home. I do remember university being a lot of fun, I met lots of friends but it was also a lot of hard work too. I remember spending hours in the library and writing everything out of books too. I have since done other degree courses and using a computer and Google which is amazing compared to back them! The other nursing students and myself lived in halls in first year, which was actually Highcroft Hospital – an old psychiatric hospital in Erdington.
“Nowadays, I am a Nursing Sister working as a Practice Nurse in a doctor’s surgery specialised in respiratory care. I’ve been there for seven years, it’s near where I live and it fits in really well with my family. Before that, I was a district nurse for the same surgery and previously, I was working in New Jersey. Whilst in America, I worked in intensive care. I retrained to be a General Nurse whilst over there and because I’d already got my degree from BCU, I was able to do this but it was still hard work and I still needed to go to University there. I met my husband whilst working in America, and then returned to the UK to be nearer to my parents.
“Outside of work, I’ve been married for 21 years with two daughters who are 15 and 17. We also have a lovely dog. I’m really into fitness and reading and of course lots of extra nursing courses including a teaching degree.
Elizabeth, from Hereford, was inspired to go into Nursing after seeing her mum be a nurse for many years. She returned to academia 18 years ago, but this time, as a lecturer.
“Growing up, my mum was a nurse, and she bumped into a friend who was a nursing tutor and she mentioned that there was this new course and suggested applying for it. I went for the interview and got in. At that time, it was really something that there was going to be a four-year degree in three years.
“I remember my time at university as a lot of fun. I remember the Paternoster lifts very clearly! There was a rumour that the lifts turned upside down if you got to the top of the building, but that wasn’t true. We had to actually use books in the library then too! I remember lots of things, it’s funny what you remember.
“I think I’ve been to everyone’s weddings and I enjoyed them all! The person I’ve kept in touch with the most is Mark, as we are from the same area and are family friends. But I’ve seen others on the course across the years. When we get together, it is like stepping back in time. We look different, but it is a natural feeling for us all to be together.
“I am currently a Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at Cardiff University and I’ve been at the university in various roles for over 18 years. Before joining, I worked in a secure unit as a Ward Manager and whilst I was there, I started teaching fellow staff and students."
Mark grew up in Hereford before moving to Birmingham for university. Nowadays, Mark is working in the ‘outback’ of Australia.
“I was working in social services in a residential home, looking after older adults, when I found out about the course. I’d done some A Levels, so thought I should get a job that pays better. I went to the local hospital and asked about becoming a general nurse, and they suggested that I go to university for this new three-year course.”
“After graduating, I spent over 20 years working in New Zealand before moving over to Australia. I’ve gone between clinical roles in mental health and education roles since my time at university. In New Zealand, I was a lecturer in Nursing for eight years before returning to clinical nursing and getting involved in counselling and therapy too. Now, I’m a Nurse Educator in a Mental Health service in Mount Isa and I’ve been here for two years.
“I live in the ‘outback’ of North-West Queensland and it’s quite a rugged and hardworking place to live, with a really small community. It can get up to 45 degrees here and I need to be creative how I structure my time because there's limited amenities and activities in the town. Nevertheless, I do feel part of the community and the outback is an amazing space and there's plenty to see and experience if you put your mind to it. I’ve got two sons, one back in New Zealand and the other is down is Brisbane, and I try to see them as much as I can.”