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Mercy Sharp`s story

Student Nursing Associate Mercy, 52, was born in the Philippines and moved to England in 2007. She has worked at Royal Star & Garter in High Wycombe since the care home opened in 2019. She is nearing an end to her Nursing Associate course, which she started in 2020. To mark International Nurses Day on 12 May, she looks back on the NA course, and the obstacles she’s overcome. Royal Star & Garter is a charity that provides loving, compassionate care to veterans and their partners living with disability or dementia, with Homes in Solihull, Surbiton and High Wycombe.

In the Philippines I worked as a public servant. When I came to this country, the only work I was able to do was care work. I found a job close to me which was ideal.

What I wasn’t expecting was how much I’d enjoy the job and caring for other people. It was completely different to my work in the Philippines, and I loved it.

I’ve been at Royal Star & Garter in High Wycombe from the very beginning, when it opened in April 2019. I joined as Lead HCA (Healthcare Assistant). It’s very rewarding. I get to know the residents. I support their day-to-day needs, they’re very grateful, and that makes my day. Especially when they say, ‘Thank you’, because it means they’re appreciating my hard work. At the end of each day, I’m very satisfied with the work I’ve done, and that I’ve been able to help residents.

When I joined the charity, I asked the Home Manager if they would support me getting an NVQ 4 and 5, and she told me about the Nursing Associate programme, and that this would be best for me. It was the first time I’d heard of it. About a year later I was given the chance to apply for the programme, but I waited until the last moment to put my name forward. English isn’t my first language, and it had been more than 20 years since I was in education. So I doubted whether I could go back to university. I wondered if I still had the knowledge and the capacity to cope with the schedule, especially as I was combining it with my job and family life. But I decided to go for it. I wanted to progress my career and learn new skills, and I also wanted to make a difference. It was as much being able to help other people as opposed to career progression that made me apply for it.

My course started in March 2020, but was immediately stopped by Covid, before starting again in October that year. I’m nearly qualified now, and just waiting to sit my functional skills exams. It’s been exciting and challenging, and I’m enjoying it. At the start it was a struggle, because of the doubts I had in myself, but’s it’s gone very well, and it’s been an exciting journey.

I’ve enjoyed the placements. My first was in a surgical ward, which was totally different to what I’m used to because of the patients’ needs and the interaction is much shorter – most of them were in for a day and then they go home. It’s not like Royal Star & Garter where you get to know residents over months or years. Through the placements I learned new skills, new ways to communicate with people, new working environments, how to deal with different colleagues. I was able to take a lot of information in and learn a lot from the placements and the course.

I also learned a lot about myself. I realised I’m able to push myself to do things I didn’t think I could, I’ve conquered fears. It’s boosted my confidence, and I’m more capable of doing things than I was before.

I’ve had a lot of help from Royal Star & Garter. My colleagues at the Home, especially the Nurses, have been really supportive. Every time I’ve asked a question, they’ve been amazing. I’m also grateful for the charity putting me forward and supporting me over the whole programme.

I have been thinking of topping up and becoming a registered Nurse. But right now I’m focussed on being an NA, rather than looking too far into the future. But whatever I do going forward, whether it’s as a NA or Registered Nurse, I hope it will be with Royal Star & Garter.

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