Voice of a student: take the leap

20 March 2020

Bonnie Harley
Newly qualified health visitor, Cardiff & Vale UHB

I have spent the last few years working in a busy critical care environment as an intensive care nurse – the complete opposite to health visiting in a community setting.

Before qualifying as a nurse, I spent 10 years working as a nursery nurse on a busy maternity ward rotating into special baby care.

But I had always wanted to pursue a career in health visiting for as long as I can remember. So walking away from the nerve-racking interview at the very early application stage, I remember thinking that I had absolutely no idea how the interview had gone. One thing I did know was that I had done all that I could and now had a couple of weeks anxiously waiting for the outcome.

A new path

Then I saw it – the important email I had been hoping for confirming my place on the SCPHN programme. I felt extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity as I was finally being given the chance to reach my goal. At the same time, I was a little apprehensive: it was my first time studying at Cardiff University and I’d not undertaken academic studies for some time. I’d certainly never studied at master’s level previously, so I couldn’t help but feel worried.

However, I very quickly realised that I had nothing to be concerned about. I was part of a really lovely group of students and was fully supported every step of the way by the whole team of friendly and passionate lecturers, including my personal tutor. I was also very fortunate to have had a community practice teacher who I could learn from in practice over the coming year. She was keen for me to get involved with as much as possible during my training, broadening my knowledge and skills in the transition from staff nurse to health visitor.

The year was very intense – there’s no denying that – but then I didn’t expect it to be easy, especially having a young family to juggle at the same time. Throughout the year, I was tested in what felt like every way possible – from written assignments, exams and producing an academic poster, to presentations, roleplays and completing a portfolio while out in practice.

Plan to succeed

I soon learned that organisation and planning were key to keeping on top of my academic workload. I was also grateful for the reading weeks incorporated into the timetable and used these wisely to complete module assessments. Another point which helped was the suggested reading list I was given at the start of every module – I knew the more I read, the more I would know which helped in linking the theory to practice.

My advice to anyone thinking of applying would be to take the leap – I did and have not looked back – I’ve now been working as a newly qualified HV for five months, and feel so lucky to have had the opportunity.

The past year at Cardiff University has been a very positive and enjoyable experience, and I will always be thankful of the support from the lecturers throughout. 

What I’ve learned

  • Try not to get overwhelmed with the workload in the first few weeks – take small bite-size chunks, tackling little and often.
  • Set yourself deadlines at the start of each module for when you intend to complete each learning outcome within your portfolio. Aim to be strict with yourself and stick to them.
  • Read – and read some more! Take advantage of any reading weeks you are allocated, and, if you take public transport, use it as another reading opportunity.
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others on the course – do what works for you instead. I found that when starting a new module, I focused on completing my portfolio learning outcomes for that module early on so that I could then focus on the assignment.
  • Get involved with as much as possible while out in practice to facilitate your learning. It will stand you in good stead when you start as a newly qualified HV.
  • Make the most of the allocated public health days – it’s your learning, so select these days carefully and spend them well. Some ideas: attend a case conference, have a day with a specialist HV or spend time with the speech and language team.

Twitter: @BonnieHarley8

Image credit | Bonnie Harley

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