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Home / Achieving Woman

Flight attendant quits high-life for unexpected new job she finds more 'rewarding'

 Jane switched careers from a flight attendant to a nurse (Photo courtesy)

She spent four years travelling the world as a flight attendant, visiting everywhere from Boston to Barbados; Cape Town to the Caribbean.

But Jane Williams, 49, realized her job was not giving her the sense of fulfilment she needed.

“It was fun for a while, but at the same time I felt it was a bit of a shallow existence – a lot of it was about how you looked, and having a good time when you were off duty,” she recalls.

Caring Jane had always been interested in health issues, but says she never had the confidence to imagine she could make a career in nursing.

However, after doing an airline first aid course, and learning how to deal with issues such as people fainting at 35,000ft, she wondered: “Maybe I have got what it takes to be a nurse.”

So, at the age of 32, Jane decided to apply for nursing training. Her parents were delighted. “They told me, ‘Being a nurse is so you,’ she recalls.

“Mind you, some of my family and friends who had been away with me on holiday were a bit upset that they were going to lose their flying concessions!” life-changing learning Jane admits the training was, “a steep learning curve”.

She adds: “It was life-changing, but in a brilliant way. Nursing was everything I’d hoped it would be. It ticked all my boxes.” After proudly putting on her nurse’s uniform for the first time, Jane began work in the open-heart surgery unit at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, providing pre and post-surgery care for patients.

“I felt a bit of a fraud on that first day,” says Jane, who lives in Derby and is married to a Rolls-Royce manager. “But everyone else in the unit was really supportive, and I learned fast.”

 Jane had always been interest in health issues (Photo courtesy)

During her subsequent career she has trained in specialities including renal dialysis [kidney care] and anaemia looking after people with too few red blood cells].

Jane now works as a heart failure specialist nurse in the community. She hopes to become a nurse prescriber, which will give her the authority to prescribe medicines.

“When you’re a qualified nurse, the world really is your oyster,” she says. “There are so many elements to a career in nursing: you can go into management and become a ward sister, or choose to train in a particular speciality.”

And she encourages anyone who has thought about training to be a nurse to “go for it”, regardless of their age.

“I think it’s something that’s either in you or isn’t – follow your instinct and apply to train,” she says. Moreover, Jane believes late entrants to the profession like herself have an advantage because of their “invaluable life experience”.

But doesn’t she occasionally wish she could jump on a plane and fly somewhere exotic like in her old job? “Never!” she laughs. “Fulfilling my dreams and making a difference feels amazing. Yes, there are challenging situations that push you to your limits.

“But that feeling at the end of every day of knowing I’ve done everything I possibly can to ensure every patient, family member, carer or colleague has received the best care and support from me is the most rewarding, satisfying feeling ever.

It’s so far removed from worrying about what bikini I was going to wear or which bar we would be hitting when we finally land in Miami. Don’t get me wrong, they were fun decisions to have to make, but they did lose their sparkle after four years!”

“The sense of achievement and career possibilities nursing provides is far more than I ever realised. Bringing with me all the life and work experiences I’d had made the transition from cabin crew to nurse the best decision I’ve ever made.”

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