Zara - specialist stoke nurse, NHS Lothian

I’m Zara and I’m a specialist stroke nurse working at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

What does a typical day look like?

At the start of each shift, I do a hand over with the nurses on the stroke unit who were looking after the patients overnight. I then work with other nurses on shift to get the patients up in the morning. Throughout the day, we check they are eating and drinking at mealtimes and give them any medication they need.

We also do observations for patients. This means we check things like blood pressure. We will also look for any changes in their condition, to make sure they’re ok and report anything that needs attention.

When did you decide to become a nurse?

When I left school, I went to work in a bank. After a while, I realised it wasn’t for me at all.
I wanted to do something more hands-on where I was working with people. Nursing is academic, but it’s also very practical. You learn lots of practical skills and you’re also caring for people at the same time.

What’s the best thing about being a nurse?

The thing I like most about being a nurse is caring for people and helping them. Even the small things mean a lot to people, especially if they are feeling unwell.

There are lots of opportunities for learning during your career. Once you have experience as a staff nurse, you can choose to specialise in an area of nursing. That’s what I’m doing now, caring for adults of all ages who have had a stroke.

What skills do you need to be a nurse?

To be a good nurse you need to be caring. You also need to be good with people, so communication skills are important too. It helps to be able to make people smile and laugh sometimes.

You also need to be organised, hard-working and have a real interest in looking after people.

What’s the most challenging thing about your job?

For me, the most challenging thing is caring for people when things aren’t going so well. I work in the stoke unit with people who are very unwell. It doesn’t always work out well for some of these patients and that can be difficult and upsetting.

What are the routes into nursing?

You can apply directly to a university, but there are other pathways into nursing.

Doing a Foundation Apprenticeship in Health and Social Care while at school will help you get some experience. You can start your nursing career as a healthcare support worker and follow the Open University route into nursing. An HNC or an Access to Nursing course at college could also lead to university study. This is what I did, and it worked out well for me.