“I think I need to find a new hobby!” says nurse Sharon Chandler from St Leonard’s Ward at Wallingford Community Hospital. But this is not because she’s suddenly got tired of her pastime; it’s rather because for the first time in years she has some free time. She has just graduated from Open University after years of studying and working full time. She received her registered nurse pin last week and was celebrated by all her colleagues St Leonard’s.

Her career at Wallingford started some seven years ago as a health care assistant. Interested in proceeding in her career, she did a Level 3 diploma. She completed it in six months when the maximum time allowed is two years, and Oxford Health’s Learning & Development team got interested in this keen learner.

“My internal assessor had sent my work to L&D and they thought it was well written and asked what my plans were; whether I wanted to study further,” Sharon explains.

Sharon said she could not afford to stop working but to her surprise she was offered the opportunity to apply for a secondment and to study at the Open University, getting paid a wage and having the university fees paid. In order to meet the requirements Sharon had to go back to college and pass maths and English at the required level. She also did online courses to show her commitment.

All in all, she has studied while working for six years, or – as she puts it – “as long as I can remember!”

Sharon is grateful to her colleagues who have fully supported her all that time.

“Studying while working can be tricky at times but luckily for me we are a really good team Wallingford. It kept me going. And when it got to the final hurdles, I just said to myself I am nearly there.”

Sharon wants to say a special thank you clinical development nurse Siobhan Bennet who has been her mentor.

“I was so fortunate to have one and same mentor throughout my studies. She is my rock!” says Sharon.

A familiar face?

Sharon Chandler in care work advrtising campaign

Sharon in the advertising campaign.

If Sharon’s face looks familiar, you are not the only one. A couple of years ago she took part in a campaign promoting care work.

“My then matron at Wallingford, Maggie Webb, arranged me to be interviewed and photographed for the campaign. The advert really took off and the photos were everywhere. At the time it was posted on social media and ended up on various buses and bus stops. It became a bit of a ‘Where’s Wally?’ It’s still on display at the entrance to the Churchill hospital, the main corridor of the JR and, I’m reliably informed, on various waiting room TV screens,” Sharon laughs.

When she was on placement at Churchill, she noticed people looking at her. “They kept walking past me and saying: ‘you look really familiar!” Sharon laughs.

Now a registered nurse, Sharon’s duties have somewhat changed – but the text in the advert surely is still entirely accurate.

“I now have accountability as an independent practitioner,” she reflects. “But I still feel very much supported by our team and confident in their support.”

And now she is working with students herself.

“I’m enjoying it very much – and learning more myself.”