Claire - Saving Lives

Claire Blake

GP Nurse

BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing

Claire didn’t have a straightforward journey to university, as bad grades and self-doubt made her think she couldn’t be a nurse. After overcoming hurdles, gaining experience and increasing her confidence, Claire has been able to achieve well beyond what she ever thought possible.  She is not only a registered nurse and a published author but has also become an advocate for transgender patients in the healthcare sector.

“I didn’t think I was smart enough to go to university, let alone become a nurse. I did badly in my GCSEs, and I was constantly told in school that I wouldn’t amount to anything. After school, I just wanted to work, so I worked in hospitality for a few years, but I felt that I needed a greater purpose.

A friend told me that he thought I’d make a great nurse. I didn’t have enough self-belief to see myself as a nurse, but his comment did make me think about working in healthcare and that maybe it could be a more fulfilling career for me. I started working as a healthcare assistant for the elderly and then went on to work in sexual health services. I knew then that looking after people was my calling.

The nurses I’d seen in my different healthcare roles really inspired me but more importantly, I realised that nurses are people just like me. My GCSEs didn’t define me, and I knew if I worked hard, I could become a nurse just like them. I completed my Access to HE in Nursing and finally applied for a Nursing Degree at BCU.

My journey to BCU wasn’t an easy one. After starting the course for the first time, I was made homeless and had to leave Birmingham for a while. My commute wasn’t manageable, so I sadly had to drop out of the course. After working for a few years to get back on my feet, I applied again, and I knew that it was my shot. I was successful and finally started my course again in 2017.

Studying nursing is the best thing I’ve ever done. As a student nurse at BCU, 50 per cent of your course is spent on placement. I was able to experience working on day wards, surgical wards, and in community and GP nursing. BCU prepared me for nursing life when I qualified, with skills sessions, interactive lessons and placements. My self-doubt slowly began to fade as I realised that I was capable, and my knowledge and practical experience grew.

In my second year, I also started doing more to help other students because I know how tough being a student can be, and wanted to support others wherever I could. I started to write my book for student nurses called ‘How to Make it as a Student Nurse’ which was published in 2023!

After my graduation, I moved to Portsmouth to work as a GP Nurse, I loved the variety in my everyday role and treating patients from different walks of life. I found every aspect of my role engaging, but two key areas piqued my interest: sexual health and transgender healthcare. I began to look at how I can make a difference in these areas.

I now work with West Midlands Police investigating sexual offences. I’m really passionate about helping survivors of sexual assault and developed a lot of knowledge in this area as a sexual healthcare assistant before studying at BCU. I carry out examinations and write up police statements detailing any injuries and examination results. Plus, we provide aftercare which can range from mental health support to providing medication and referring the patient to other services. I also carry out 6-week follow-ups with the patient to check on their health and wellbeing. We offer a 24/7 service to everyone, whether this is a new or historic assault. I’m proud to provide a safe environment for these survivors and make a small difference where I can.

In my role as a GP Nurse, I treated my first transgender patient and I realised that I’d never been taught about hormone injections, side effects and how best to treat my patient. I did some research and discovered that there was hardly any training or resources available to nurses. I was determined to make a difference to transgender patients in their local communities. I carried out a lot of research around transgender healthcare, policies, guidelines, and documents and began running webinars to teach healthcare professionals how to give the best care possible to their transgender patients.

My husband is a transgender man and he’s also passionate about sharing his experience on the webinars. We’ve received great feedback and people began implementing the teaching into their roles.

I can’t believe how much I’ve changed since I first started my BCU journey. I used to be timid and suffered with imposter syndrome for so long. Now, I know my worth, I know that I can be a nurse and that I’m a good nurse. I feel like there are no limits to what I can achieve.”