A mum-of-two who worked on the coronavirus frontline after fulfilling her ambition of qualifying as a nurse is spearheading a drive to attract new recruits from across North Wales to the profession.
At the height of the pandemic earlier this year, Lynda Williams found herself in full PPE working on a Covid-19 ward at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor just days after graduating as a nurse.
She was part of the first group to take a part-time nursing degree through Bangor University aimed at support workers already working in the NHS in North Wales.
Covid-19 nursing was, she said, one of the most “incredibly difficult” experiences of her life but also at times one of the most rewarding when she saw patients recovering from the virus.
Lynda is now encouraging others interested in following in her footsteps to attend one of two virtual open days being organised by Bangor University on June 26 and July 10 when anyone interested in the University’s range of nursing and other courses can chat to staff and students, watch videos and presentations and take 360-degree tours of the campus and accommodation.
She said: “I was on the Covid ward straight after qualifying and people there were really poorly.
“I was lucky I had the experience of working in the hospital prior to qualifying as a nurse I’m not sure I could have managed it fresh out of school.
“But it was special when you saw patients recover and walk out of the ward – it made you feel you were doing your job.
“It’s helping people that is the best thing, everything else is just a bonus, and the fact that in nursing you’re always learning.
“There’s always something new. It keeps you on your toes so you never get complacent.
“As nurses we’re all in the same boat and we all support each other.”
Lynda, from Maesgeirchen, had been a health care support worker at the hospital for seven years when she had the chance to enrol on a new part-time course introduced by Bangor University to help people like her progress their careers.
She may have come to nursing late but it had been her ambition since leaving school and she said: “I always wanted to be a paramedic but things just got in the way.
She had applied to do health and social care in college after she left school but ill-health meant she couldn’t take up the offer and instead went directly into the workplace.
She said: “I worked as an administrator for Crosville, in a café, in a chippy and then as an admin in Social Services and planned to do an Open University course to become a social worker.
“But then the health carer job came up and that was where my heart was and I went for that.”
Since starting work as a health care support worker she has had two children with partner, David, Efa, seven, and Cai, four, and was accepted on the nursing course before Cai was one.
She said: “I couldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been part-time as Cai has also been poorly and spent a lot of time in hospital with breathing problems however David and my mum and dad have been fantastic helping me.
“Cai is better now but still suffers from seizures. He is at Ysgol y Garnedd, in Bangor, and there is a special unit there which has really helped him. We also hope to have him treated at Alder Hey in Liverpool.”
In 2018 Lynda was part of the first intake on the course, which has been supported by the Welsh Government since 2018. It has gone from strength to strength with numbers more than doubling from the first cohort of 14 and the University open days are part of the next phase to recruit for the 2022 course.
Course Lead Gill Truscott, recently awarded Teacher of the Year in the Bangor University Student-Led Awards, said: “I was employed to launch this programme and it’s been an absolute privilege and I can’t say enough how much I admire the tenacity and dedication of the students.
“Lynda was part of the trailblazing first group who studied throughout the Covid pandemic, but everyone persevered and did tremendously well – I am in awe of every students’ commitment and dedication and so proud of each one of them.
“When Lynda came for interview, we could see her potential to become a registered nurse.
“All support workers who undertake the programme bring with them a wealth of diverse clinical knowledge and experiences, which we encourage them to share and develop during their studies to become qualified nurses.
“Part of the success of the programme is the collaborative working with Bangor University, Coleg Llandrillo and the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board which facilitates the success of the course and the ability to proactively support students throughout.
“It was such an honour to win the teaching award but it’s not so much the winning but the fact that the students took the time out to nominate me and think about me and that really is the most touching and humbling tribute for me.”
Lynda said: “I really enjoyed the course which had 14 of us on it from across North
Wales. Most of us were over 30 and I qualified earlier than I expected.
“With two small children I couldn’t have afforded to go on a full-time course so this was perfect for me, I could get paid and qualify as a nurse. It was a win-win.
“I have always wanted to care for people so being a nurse is something I really wanted to do and this course meant I could achieve that.
“I do like the fast pace of the Emergency Department and also diabetes nursing because it’s such a complex and difficult complaint and when people come in they’re so unwell so it’s great to see them go home well again.”