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Student Nursing Times Award finalist shares personal story of trauma that inspired her journey into nursing studies at Kingston University

Posted Monday 11 March 2024

Student Nursing Times Award finalist shares personal story of trauma that inspired her journey into nursing studies at Kingston University Philippa used to work with patients at London's Air Ambulance Charity

Philippa Esson is a mature nursing student and mother of three who was inspired to get into healthcare after a traumatic life event. The student is in her third year of studying adult nursing at Kingston University and was recently shortlisted for a 2024 Student Nursing Times Award. She shares her story and explains why she decided to go back to education and pursue a career in nursing. 

After leaving school, I initially studied medicine, but subsequently changed career and ended up in marketing and communications, while bringing up a family. I then moved to Cape Town, South Africa for five years, where I was working in a corporate role and volunteering for victim support in the township near where I was living.

After the birth of my third child, I had a personal experience of trauma, where I was admitted to an intensive care unit. It took many months for me to get back on my feet and the whole experience shifted my perspective on life. I decided I wanted to come back to the UK and focus my work in the charity or healthcare sectors.

I ended up approaching London's Air Ambulance Charity to see if there was a role where I could combine my communication skills with my lived experience of trauma. They created a role for me within the communications team but also working with patients as a Marketing and Patient Liaison Manager. I supported patients through their recovery, introduced them to the Air Ambulance team that treated them on scene and helped share their stories. I ended up setting up a podcast series called picking up the pieces, where past patients and families would share their experiences so that other patients could benefit. I got to work very closely with the advanced trauma team, which I absolutely loved, however I felt I wanted to finish my clinical training.

Alongside working for London's Air Ambulance, I also joined The Listening Place as a volunteer, a charity providing ongoing face-to-face support for people who are feeling suicidal or that life is no longer worth living. I still volunteer there today, managing a team and training new volunteers in active listening.

When the Covid-19 pandemic started, it really highlighted to me how much I wanted to return to a frontline professional healthcare role. I felt completely powerless not being able to help during the pandemic. With my personal life experiences and therapeutic approach to care with my volunteering roles, it felt like nursing was a perfect fit for me. It still offers me the scalability of roles I'm looking for, such as clinical nurse specialists, advanced nurse practitioners and nurse consultants, while also offering a more holistic approach, which is the kind of patient care I strive to deliver. It means I get a lot more time with patients and more opportunities to develop therapeutic relationships with them.

Since joining Kingston University, my personal tutor Sophie Newcombe has been phenomenal and supportive every step of the way. Whenever I've had any crisis of confidence, she's been a huge source of support.

I have been very lucky to take part in some fantastic placements at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Most recently, I was one of the first students to experience the hospital's new clinical nurse specialist placement in oncology and palliative care. I loved this experience and it really cemented for me that oncology is a field I would like to pursue.

While working at the hospital, I have met with the Chief Executive and Chief Nurse to explain how the active listening skills we use at The Listening Place could benefit healthcare professionals. As a result, I will be delivering the training I run at the charity to a pilot group of nurses at the hospital in April, as well as nursing degree apprenticeship students at Kingston University.

Senior Lecturer in Simulated Learning and Clinical Skills Sophie Newcombe and Philippa’s personal tutor said: 

"Philippa is a conscientious, bright student who is eager to learn and a pleasure to teach. Philippa is a very positive person and a great role model for her peers. Philippa has excellent communication skills; she is respectful, listens to, and considers others. It has been a joy to be Philippa’s personal tutor. I am so proud of her achievements and have loved seeing Philippa develop into a professional, compassionate, and empathetic nurse. I know that Philippa will continue to excel and will be a leading light in the nursing profession."

Category: Students

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