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Clinic history made as two HCAs qualify as RNs, "We've both waited a long time to fulfill our career dreams... but we've done it!

27 Jun 2023

"Now we can both say, "My name is..." and introduce ourselves as qualified nurses to our patients."

Janet Sutton and Susil (Jayantha) Wilwara have worked at the Clinic for seven, and eight years respectively as Health Care Assistants (HCA).

However, for all that time, and while they were in their former careers – Janet as an HR recruitment manager for 12 years in Parma, Italy, (and as a volunteer care home assistant on her day off), and Jay as a senior care home assistant working in Sri Lanka - they both cherished the same dream to train to be nurses.

But it took working at The London Clinic to be able to realise their ambitions. After putting a strong business case forward and follow-up requests, the Clinic agreed to sponsor their part-time degree studies.

In 2018, Janet and Jay started a part-time Nursing Associate Apprenticeship Foundation degree for two years at London South Bank University. Unfortunately, two years of the pandemic delayed their studies which they resumed in 2021 at the University of East London and continued their degree course for a further two years part-time.  

In May, the tenacious two fulfilled their ambitious wishes and qualified as Level 6 Registered Nurses while continuing to do their HCA jobs at the Clinic. Janet doing the night shifts in the Plastic and Reconstruction Ward, and Jay working the day shift in the Digestive Diseases Unit.

“I’ve waited 20 years for this moment, it’s been worth every minute,” said Jay. My motivation came from looking after my mother in Sri Lanka who was very sick at the time. Then when I came to England I observed how nurses work and I decided I could do it too. It’s not about the money – what I get from nursing is job satisfaction - and being able to self-manage my workload. Every day is different, and every patient is different and you have to use your creativity to look after them holistically and as individuals.”

Jay will build on his knowledge from working in the Clinic’s renal ward and will focus on blood cancer conditions.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Susil progress through his studies with such passion and drive,” said Emma Mitchell, Head of Nursing Quality. “Susil worked in numerous roles, not only as an HCA. He also covered patient flow and did nursing desk duties managing temporary staffing.

“I have no doubt that Susil will quickly climb the career ladder in nurse management in his preferred area. We hope that Susil makes it back to The London Clinic once he has completed his NHS training programmes and we wish him all the best in what will be a wonderful career in nursing.” 

“I am so very grateful to the Clinic for supporting me to become a nurse,” said Janet. “As an HCA when I heard nurses introduce themselves to their patients at the start of a shift, and say, “Hello, my name is…and I’m your nurse,” I vowed to myself that one day I too would say those words.”

“Well done Janet, or Matron, as the team calls you. Your determination and dedication have paid off,” said Prudentia Jennings, Plastics and Reconstruction Ward Manager and Janet’s line manager. “You’ve waited a long time to be a nurse - and the nursing profession - will be glad of your tenaciousness, ambition, and time you always set aside to care.

“Thank you for giving your best to the Clinic, its patients, and your team. It has been a pleasure working with you, supporting you, and seeing you blossom into the professional you are today. All good wishes to you for your future.”

Both Janet and Jay stated how much they enjoyed the training and by being HCAs gave them the advantage of getting practical skills at work, while learning the theory of nursing techniques and applying what they had seen and heard on the wards, at university.

Only au revoir, not good bye   

For now, Janet and Jay have hung up their Clinic uniforms and headed off to work at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea to complete a one-year Preceptorship nursing course for newly qualified nursing staff. Janet has opted to specialise in gastro and breast cancer diseases. “As I have a degree in psychology I will apply that knowledge to help me understand what my patients are going through and how best I can help them.”

However, the talented duo both vow to return to the Clinic, once they have settled down to their new lives on the wards of the world's first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research, and education.

“It’s going to be hard to leave the Clinic where we both feel so appreciated and included in our respective teams,” said Janet and Jay. “To any other members of staff who are thinking of changing their careers and taking up nursing, we can only say, do it! It’s amazing. Support is always there if you ask for it. And looking after patients is a two-way thing, the more you give, the more you receive.” 

“What we both want to do is to work on the nursing bank at the Clinic,” said Janet. “We are both so grateful to the Clinic for allowing us to develop our careers and we want to return because we love this place. Working at the Clinic is like being in a family. It will be so good to learn new skills at The Royal Marsden and bring those teachings back to share with our colleagues at the Clinic.”

“We are super glad we worked as HCAs together, our nursing training together, and now we are doing our preceptorship training together - the mutual support continues,” said Jay. “But we will never forget The London Clinic, we’ll be back!”

Thanks to you from us

“We would like to use this opportunity to thank all our colleagues, supervisors, and assessors across the Clinic who helped us throughout the hospital in different placement areas. We just couldn’t have achieved what we have without you,” said Janet and Jay. 

Jay and Janet dedicated Health Care Assistants to successful Registered Nurses