A student who struggled for nine years to become a nurse has finally started her dream job after graduating with first class honours and winning an award.
Natasha Vincent says she was told she would never be academically good enough to become a nurse – something she had always aspired to.
But her determination saw her overcome numerous challenges to pass her nursing exams with flying colours and take up a psychiatric nursing post at Tonna Hospital earlier this year.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” said the 27-year-old.
“But I have always struggled academically and needed extra support in primary school due to the school believing I was dyslexic.
“My parents arranged an English and maths tutor for me outside of school, but I then had the same issues at comprehensive.
“My teachers predicted I would get E grades in my GCSEs and that I would struggle due to my dyslexia, although I was never formally diagnosed.”
Natasha proved them wrong, passing ten GCSEs and going on to college. Again, she says, she was told she would struggle and was discouraged from applying for university. Undeterred, she applied to do a child nursing degree in 2014.
“Unfortunately, there were many hurdles throughout the course,” she said.
“I had two beautiful boys during the three years I was studying, and I also failed an assignment three times which meant I could not proceed any further on the course.
“I was told by a lecturer who failed the assignment that I’d never be academically good enough due to my dyslexia, which is still undiagnosed, to pass the nursing degree.
“I could have contested the decision, but it just wasn’t the right time, and it completely knocked my confidence. I just believed I was not good enough.”
Natasha took a break from university and started working as a community dementia support worker with ABMU Health Board (our predecessor organisation) which slowly began to restore her self-belief.
Encouraged by colleagues to apply to do a mental health nursing degree at Swansea University, Natasha started a course only for Covid to strike two weeks later.
Finally, nine years after first setting out on her nursing journey, she has graduated – and with first class honours.
Natasha has also been presented with the Melanie Jasper Memorial Award, for achieving the highest mark in BSc Nursing for her final reflective project.
She has started her dream job as a community psychiatric nurse with Tonna Adult Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). “I’m surrounded by great colleagues who have supported me massively,” she said.
“None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for my parents who continued to believe in me when nobody else did, and my husband Kurt.
“He has been by my side since I was a teenager and seen every failure and success, and always supported every decision I have made, even when it had a financial impact on us.
“Our boys, who are now aged five and six, gave me a purpose to follow my dreams. I hope I have set the best example for them, and one day they will be as determined as me to reach their dreams.
“I’d also like to thank all my family and friends for getting me through the last nine years.”
Ed Lord, lecturer in mental health nursing at Swansea University, said: “Over the 3 years that I have been academic mentor to Natasha I have been impressed with her outstanding dedication to the course and to the profession of nursing.
"She has overcome multiple challenges, including the well documented disruption to personal and institutional life brought about by the pandemic. I have seen consistent development throughout the course based on reflexive and diligent response to feedback. I have no doubt that Natasha will be an asset to the profession of mental health nursing.”
Ross Whelan, lead nurse for adult community services, said: “Natasha obtained one of the first posts within our Community Health Mental Health Team via our new streamlined recruitment process.
“This initiative was new to our community services and we were excited to welcome Natasha to the team.
“She has proven herself be a valued and important member of the multidisciplinary team and demonstrated the success of the streamlining process.
“It is great to see her hard work, dedication and determination paying off.”