Nicole Brown

Adult Nursing Graduate 

Adult Nursing alumna Nicole Brown was chosen to be one of the faces of the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal 2020. She tells us about why she chose to study Adult Nursing at Birmingham City University, and life as a Royal Navy Reservist. 

What made you choose Nursing?

From a very young age I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in the medical field with becoming a Paramedic at the top of my list. When I didn’t get into university at the age of 18, I decided to gain more experience in a healthcare setting. My Mother is a Nurse who attended BCU in 1996. She is also a BCU mentor at Olivet Nursing home; this along with my experience inspired me to apply for my Nurse training. 

What key skills and knowledge did you gain from your course?

I learnt so much from my course, including anatomy and physiology, and the vast range of different medical conditions that we may encounter, and more about the role of a nurse in a variety of healthcare settings. It also taught me how to communicate more effectively and how to work as a team, and more about myself - as I gained more confidence and developed my character.

How did your tutors enable you to succeed?

The staff really encouraged and supported me throughout my journey, especially when I felt I was not meeting my targets.

When you look back at your time at university, what are you most proud of, and what have accomplished since graduating?

I'm most proud of that fact that I didn't give up! I found my first year the most challenging as I had to get used to writing assignments, referencing and performing to the best of my ability under pressure. I’m proud that I never gave up and continued to push through what I felt was the hardest year.

Since I've graduated, I've been specialising in Cardiology, which has enabled me to increase my knowledge, skills and practice. I also joined the UHB bank to work agency shifts across different sites and specialities which also increased my knowledge and skills even further. I joined the Royal Navy which taught me a range of skills that I would have never have achieved in my civilian job.

How do you think your degree course helped you to flourish and prepare you for a successful career in healthcare?

The support I have received from the university has been great especially during my first year as I felt I wasn’t good enough to achieve my goals, however with encouragement and support I was able to continue to push myself to complete my degree. This has highlighted to me that every journey will have its ups and downs but with determination this has also taught me that I can achieve anything I put my mind to.  

What motivated you to join the Royal Navy Reserves?

I was inspired by my grandmother, who wanted to join the Army when she was 27. During her medical test she discovered she was pregnant with my father – she was obviously thrilled about this but ultimately disappointed as she didn’t get to pursue her dream career. In my third year at Birmingham City University, the Royal Navy came to advertise and this was a sign to take the opportunity to join. I love to challenge myself, travel, meet new people and learn new skills and in retrospect I wanted to fulfil my grandmother’s dream.

What made you decide to pursue further training as a paramedic?

I initially wanted to be a Paramedic and even though I thoroughly enjoy my Nursing job, I still felt the burning desire to pursue my dream. Having worked with many elderly patients I would often hear them say “if I had my time again I would…” This was a quote that has always stayed with me and I promised myself I would never look back and say “I wish”. Therefore, I took the opportunity to apply for a job with WMAS to start my journey.

How do you balance your paramedic training with still working shifts as a nurse, and being a reservist?

The key is to stay organised, stay focused and remain positive.

I work full time as a Student Paramedic which is my priority. I then choose to work bank shifts as a Nurse when available whilst adhering to the working time directive. The Royal Navy meet up once a week (via Zoom during COVID-19 times), and they are very understanding if I am unable to make this due to my work commitments. The NHS has an Armed Forces policy which enables me to have two extra weeks' annual leave for training or deployment, and they are also supportive to students as they are mindful of the university timetable.

How did you get involved with the Royal British Legion (RBL) Poppy Appeal? 

Having recently completed Q&A videos for the Royal Navy Reserves Instagram page, I was spotted by the RBL. They contacted me as they wanted to have “heroes of today” involved in this year's Poppy Appeal (2020).

It was an absolute honour for me to take part this year as Remembrance Day was going to be completely different due to COVID-19. In addition, to be called a hero along with such lovely comments and support it has been both overwhelming and exciting.

The Poppy Appeal signifies the sacrifices Armed Forces, Veterans and their families made during WW1, and represents all those who lost their lives on active service in all conflicts. Due to COVID-19 having a huge impact on Remembrance Day, I felt it was even more important this year to remind people not to forget such a significant day. To be involved with this meant I could also signify heroes of the past and present.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of a career in health and/or defence healthcare?

GO FOR IT! There is no dream too big that you cannot achieve, it doesn’t matter if you take baby steps, you will get there in the end. It is important not to compare yourself to other people, remain focused on your goals and never be discouraged or disappointed if at first you don’t succeed (try, try again). I personally feel that the healthcare profession is the most rewarding as you're not only developing as an individual but making a positive impact on people’s lives.