Students

 
Jon Wallace
Nursing at Kilmarnock (2011/12)
Adult Nursing at UWS (2012-2015)
Hi, I'm Jon. I'm 38 years old and I'm from Glasgow. My dad was a crane driver in the shipyards and my mum was a lollipop lady. I am the first person to go to university within my immediate family, but my family were very supportive. And I couldn't have done it without the family support. My wife was enormously encouranging to me and supported me the whole way through. Our daughter was very young when I made the decision to return to education, so it was great that her grandparents could help us out by looking after her.

I left school and went straight in to do joinery, because I've always been a practical person. I like working with my hands and I had enjoyed doing it at school. I finished my apprenticeship but didn't get work as a joiner straight away. I had various odd jobs, such as working in a factory assembling cabinets. Later on, I got a job delivering office furniture all around Scotland and I stayed there for a long time. I had always had nursing in the back of my mind but never had the opportunity to pursue it.

After I’d been working for the same company for 12 years, the business changed hands and the new owners tried to put us on zero-hours contracts. I wasn’t happy about that, and I just didn’t enjoy working there any longer, so it seemed like a good time to go for nursing.

Nursing always interested me, but when I left school at age 17 (1993), <male_nurse_royalty_free.jpg> boys just didn't really do that kind of thing. It was seen as a woman’s job. That sounds a bit backwards now, but it was a bit of question back then. People would say things like, "You're a man. Shouldn’t you be doing a man's job?" Even now, people will sort of question my masculinity when they find out that I'm doing nursing. Male nurses are in the minority but they can do the job as well as anyone. Things are changing now with gender roles in other careers, too. For example, my daughter is 7 years old and she is attending the same school I went to as a child. She has a male teacher now, but there would never have been a male teacher in primary school when I was there. Things are changing, but the world is just a bit slow in catching up.

Unlike some who are inspired to go into nursing due to a good experience, I was actually inspired to give it a try after a bad experience. I’d had surgery and encountered a nurse who was just awful. In recovery, whenever I asked any questions, she was very short and sharp with me.  When I said I was feeling sick after the surgery, she told me, "Oh, people don't get sick any more after anaesthetic.”  And then when I was, in fact, sick she acted as if it were my fault! She was unpleasant to my family, not very caring at all, and I remember thinking, “I could do better than this!”

I started searching online, looking for options to get into nursing, and I came across the SWAP web site. I looked at the colleges and just started phoning them up. By that time it was late March and most places were full, so I wound up going down to Kilmarnock to study. I went down to the Open Day and met the tutors, and they were all very nice. I was keen to get started, so when they offered me a place, I took it.

The first day of college, I was very nervous. Being a wee bit older, I presumed I would be the oldest person in the class (which, as it turned out, I wasn't). I also thought I would be the only other male in the class, but there was one other. In the first week, there were lots of icebreakers and exercises to get you relaxed and learn your way around the college. The lecturers were all lovely. There was an adjustment period, of course, with the students in the classroom but it eventually settled down. I treated it like a job. I turned up every day early and I stayed until the end. I did what I was told to do and if there was extra work to be done, I did it.

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The SWAP programme prepares you very well. By the end of the year I was very well set up for university. You could see the difference between people who had come from SWAP and those who had come through other routes. There was a noticeable gap in knowledge, and when it came to participating in group work or answering questions in a tutorial, you could really notice the difference. We were also better prepared for knowledge of physiology, as well as psychology and sociology. We had covered these in college and been assessed on them, so when we got to university we were ahead of the curve. We had already seen it and had that underpinning knowledge to help us. Others in my class would say, "I don't have a clue what they're talking about" but because I had done the SWAP programme, I was actually able to help them. And because I had that basic knowledge, it enabled me to get a deeper understanding of the subjects when I was at university.

I'm finishing up 3rd year now and will soon be looking for a nursing job. And maybe in a few years’ time I will think about doing a Master’s degree!

If you’re thinking about starting on a SWAP programme, you really need to be prepared to put the work in. You can't leave things until the last minute, and you need to plan ahead. But you will enjoy it, as well. It's a fun time. I developed friendships starting on the first day of college that are still strong now that I'm finishing at university. There's a support network built in to the programme, and it really helps you to succeed.

UPDATE:
Jon has graduated from UWS and now works as an orthopaedic theatre nurse in Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Click below to hear Jon speak about his experience.

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