Angela Karuri never considered nursing as a career as a young girl.
She recalled in her late teens seeing how hard her mum worked in private healthcare and thinking “I can’t do that,” and never imagined herself in a nursing career.
A decade later Angela is about to start an MSc Specialist Community Public Health Nursing after more than two years as a Registered Nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
Her master’s at City University was arranged through Tower Hamlets GP Care Group and will lead to a job as a Specialist School Nurse, while her wider plan is to work in public health policy.
Angela, 28, who lives in Tilbury, Essex, was forced to rethink her future after struggling in in her A Levels, after becoming unwell due to a chronic condition while her mum was also ill.
Back then she was more interested in sports science, which led to her enrolling on a Health and Social Care Level 3 Diploma at City and Islington College (CANDI) and gaining a Distinction.
After her diploma Angela went on to the University of Central Lancashire to study a BSc (Hons) Nutrition and Exercise Sciences where she graduated with first class honours.
“The course at CANDI is definitely one of the best out there,” said Angela.
“It gave me my confidence back after it had been knocked with A Levels. It was a chance for me to regroup and start with a clean slate. Right from the beginning I put my all into it,” said Angela.
“I had a fantastic tutor. He knew most of us were looking to go to university and would make sure we learnt how to research and set out references in our coursework. That set the tone for my degree and further learning.”
A year after graduation, Angela landed a job as an Outpatient Clerk at for Barts Health NHS Trust, which turned out to be a pivotal moment in her career.
She said: “I started to enjoy working with patients and making sure they felt safe and being that friendly face to talk to. I really liked that aspect of it. I was also looking after the children at my church’s Sunday school and thought I could combine this with nursing. It just clicked.”
Angela enrolled on a Postgraduate Diploma in Paediatric Nursing with London South Bank University in 2018 and two years later she began her career as a nurse at GOSH.
GOSH is one of the world’s leading paediatric hospitals, treating more than 69,000 children from the UK and overseas each year who are mostly referred by other hospitals for specialist care.
“Nursing gives me real sense of fulfilment and a joy. I get a lot of peace and satisfaction making sure the children are safe and well. Knowing I’ve helped them and they’re okay is the best part of the job,” said Angela.
Angela admitted it is hard not to get too attached to the children, particularly those who are terminally ill or in long-term care, when supporting them and their families.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s kids are very resilient. Most of the time they don’t really focus on their illness. They know that they are unwell, but they seem able to just switch off sometimes and just want to get to know you and play with you,” she said.
“On the ward I worked on, we had a lot of high dependency patients who were very unwell, but when you see them overcome surgery or recover from their illness and come out the other end, or they come back a few months later to say hi, it’s a lovely feeling.”
Angela explained that all hospital staff caring for a particular child would meet to share their feelings and support each other through difficult times including bereavement.
She said: “Initially, I tried not to get too close as a way of isolating myself from those situations. As you get more comfortable in your nursing career, you do tend to start forming relationships with these children and their parents, and when things don’t go well your team really matters.”
Angela felt most pressurised in her job during the COVID pandemic and coped with the stress by switching off after her shift, not worrying about less urgent jobs and making sure they had a life outside of work.
“There will be times when you feel the strain. Always remember the reason you decided to get into nursing in the first place. More often than not it is because you want to help people. As long as you keep that in mind, the rest will fall into place,” she said.
Angela listed kindness, staying calm under pressure, good time management and organisation, being able to delegate, teamwork, flexibility and resilience as the skills and attributes needed to be a nurse.
She admitted in retrospect she would have done a nursing degree after her Health and Social Care diploma at CANDI but has no regrets on taking a slightly longer route into her career.
“Obviously, my mind wasn’t on nursing then and I had my little detour, but it’s a good course that gives you a great foundation in healthcare and other things you might not necessarily think of, like public health policy, which you will get assignments on if you study nursing,” she said.
So, how would the young Angela react to her being a nurse?
“She would definitely be shocked. If I could have spoken to her then, I would tell her to approach things with more of an open mind and a little less fear. Back then I swore to myself I would never work in a hospital, but look at me now.”