Former teacher Judith goes back to school – and back to nursing at East Kent Hospitals

Judith Sloan, a former teacher who has returned to nursing at East Kent Hospitals. She is pictured wearing scrubs and a mask in a corridor on the ward.

Published on 6 August 2021

September traditionally means back to school – but former teacher Judith Sloan will be returning to the classroom as a pupil this year.

The mum of two will join a return to practice course at Canterbury Christ Church University after deciding to swap her career in teaching to return to nursing at East Kent Hospitals.

Judith, 52, originally qualified as a nurse in her 30s, after first working her way up to become head of biology at a local grammar school, but left the NHS to return to teaching.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, she felt compelled to come back to the wards to help – and hasn’t looked back since.

She said: “I knew the staff would be going through such a hard time and I felt I would be able to help and make a difference.

“I joined the Cambridge M1 team at the William Harvey Hospital as a healthcare assistant (HCA) in July, just after the first wave, and we became a Covid ward in the second wave. It was tough but it is such a supportive team and everything was in place to keep everyone safe.

“I fully intended to stay as an HCA but I was persuaded otherwise!”

As a child, Judith wanted to become a nurse but her parents encouraged her to follow a more academic path and she studied human anatomy and physiology at university, before completing her Post-Graduate Certificate in Education.

She said: “I love teaching. To me, education is constant, it happens all the time and no matter what level you are, you are can always learn something.

“But I got to the age of 30 and I was head of department, which is where I had always seen my career heading, so I wondered what to do next.

“I decided it was the right time to follow my heart and train as a nurse. I was a bit scared about telling my dad, even though I was an adult, but he said if it’s what I wanted to do then he supported me.”

Judith completed a diploma in nursing and spent two years working at the William Harvey Hospital before moving to the community and working as a school nurse, where she could combine her love of teaching with health.

She said: “To begin with the role involved a lot of teaching and I would create all the lesson plans for sex education.

“But it moved into more of a safeguarding role and I found myself spending more time with vulnerable children, in child protection meetings and occasionally in court. My children were the same age and it started to really affect me.”

Judith decided to return to education, this time in primary schools and worked as a teaching assistant, then curriculum lead for science at Repton Manor Primary School in Ashford.

Leaving her colleagues and the pupils behind to return to the NHS was a wrench, but she has no regrets – particularly as she was anonymously nominated for a Cavell Star award recognising the care she provides for patients.

She said: “That was a wonderful surprise, although I felt quite embarrassed by it as there are so many people who deserve the award more than I do.

“It is lovely to know I will be doing what I always dreamed of again. I want to do hands-on nursing, and ultimately I think I want to join the clinical education team.

“Education can lead to really good things and a really brilliant workforce, and I’m passionate about training for staff of all levels.

“I don’t ever want to lose touch with the people at the coalface, wherever my career ends up taking me.”