Disabled Nursing Student: from diagnosis to university
by Victoria Cliff - (@PUNC19_VCliff)
27th July 2020
I am a student children’s nurse at Plymouth University, and I am disabled.
All my life I have dreamt about going to university, and when I discovered nursing, my heart became deep-rooted in this goal to become a nurse. Although my journey up until this point hasn't always been easy and I have had to fight every step of the way to be where I am now.
I have Autism, and this will be with me for life. I have always had it and I always will have it. My brain works differently to others, I communicate differently, I process things differently - but these also become my strengths. It wasn’t helped by being diagnosed at 18. 18 years of being different and never knowing why.
Autism probably seems like enough to put some barriers in place to me getting where I want. But I have also battled with mental illness for as long as I can remember, and I have had days where tomorrow looked like it would never come. It caused me to drop out of my A levels because I got too unwell, and then when I started a different course a few months later, I only managed 5 days. At this point, I truly felt I would never be able to reach my goals. I felt like my education ended at GCSE’s because I just couldn’t get any further without losing myself to mental illness.
These built barriers and walls in my way to success. I had no idea how I would get to where I wanted to be, I almost just accepted a lower quality of life than what I deserved. But I fought. I battled to be where I am.
The support from my lecturer’s and the university made a difference, proved that I could do it.
I found the things that brought me joy and gave me purpose. I volunteered at my local hospital so I could feel like I was giving something back to people. I got back on my feet and went to college; I passed my Level 3 H&SC with a D*D*D*. I went to placement in a preschool for children with additional needs and fell even more in love with working with children and their families. I knew exactly where I wanted to be, and I kept going.
After being in CAMHS for a large portion of my adolescence I got involved with the local patient participation service. This helped me to build my confidence and felt that I could make a difference – and showed me how important patient participation is to healthcare; something I hope to carry with me in my future career.
Then, I got my offer to study children’s nursing. I felt over the moon. I was there, I was going to get my goal after all. Starting university is difficult for anyone, then add into the mix my life and it was complicated. I almost gave up several times that first month. I wasn’t good enough; I could never do it. But the support from my lecturer’s and the university made a difference, proved that I could do it. Placement proved to me even more that I could do it, making a difference to families every day and I loved the feeling of helping people. And next year I get to a part of the peer assisted learning scheme as PALS lead and support the new first years as they begin their journey.
So here I am, after one of the craziest years, having completed my first year of university. Proving to that 17-year-old who thought she wouldn’t be able to live another day, that she can and she will be successful for who she is.
Victoria is a first year child nursing student at Plymouth University