Voice of a student: ‘Changing my career, one step at a time’

05 June 2019

Ceriann Howard, Full-time specialist Community Public Health Nursing (SCPHN) – health visiting student Cardiff University

I was fast approaching 40 and had been a practice nurse for 12 years, and I knew I needed a new challenge – despite having enjoyed practice nursing, I could not envisage retiring as one. I was really interested in the public health aspect of my role and passionate about immunisation, so health visiting was an obvious choice.

I had worked closely with the health visiting team as a practice nurse, so I knew a little about the role. My nursing friends persistently encouraged me to apply for the course, so, with a few days to spare, I submitted my application and, after a nerve-wracking interview, I was offered a place. I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to get started, but at the same time I began to doubt if I could ‘make the grade’ at master’s level and wondered if I really was making the right choice – at my age – to step into the unknown.

The course has a small cohort of students and I was relieved to find that we all felt the same. The course lecturers are very approachable, really encouraging and good at scraping us off the ceiling when tensions run high.

Achieving results

I really have felt nurtured into a role that I am becoming more confident in

At the interview we were informed about the high workload, both at university and while on placement. This certainly rings true. I have found that it is essential for me to be organised and strict with myself to make deadlines and achieve good results.

For the first couple of months on placement I wondered how I was ever going to cut it as a health visitor; the role is wide and there is so much you have to remember. Having the support from my practice teacher has been incredible and I really have felt nurtured into a role that I am becoming more confident in.

I am eight months into the course now and I am so pleased that I decided to embrace the opportunity, as it was the best decision I could have made. I have struggled at times with managing the demands of the course alongside home life with my young family, but I have found that setting small targets for myself makes things more achievable. As a result, I don’t dread sitting at my laptop or worry unduly if something crops up that has to be prioritised over studying.

I am looking forward to consolidation (of both my university and placement experiences) and having a caseload to deliver research-based advice and care which, looking back, I never thought I’d feel ready to do.

A well-known phrase by Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer that my husband often recites to me, is resonant of this course: ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.’

These small steps and a persistence to challenge myself will ultimately give me the qualification to work as a health visitor and provide research-based advice to families to give their children the best start in life.

Making the change – what I’ve learned

  • Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself
  • Be organised – it does really pay off
  • If you need support or help ask your lecturers/practice teachers/fellow students



Image credit | iStock