Career advice

‘I worried my stammer would be a barrier to a career in nursing’

Bethany Watson is loving her first job as nurse, and thanks to support from her trust’s speech and language therapy team, her stammer has not been an issue
bethany

Bethany Watson is loving her first job as nurse, and thanks to support from her trusts speech and language therapy team, her stammer has not been an issue.

From the age of six Bethany Watson was sure she wanted to be a nurse but she always feared her stammer would get in the way. She worried about speaking on the telephone, particularly whether she would be able to speak clearly and quickly in an emergency, and whether she could talk confidently to colleagues and patients.

Now she has been a registered nurse for 1 month, working at Airedale Hospital in Yorkshire, and she attributes her success to determination, a positive attitude and a little help from the trusts speech and language therapy team.

Ive always wanted to be a nurse, says Ms Watson. When

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Bethany Watson is loving her first job as nurse, and thanks to support from her trust’s speech and language therapy team, her stammer has not been an issue.


Bethany Watson, who recently qualified as a nurse.

From the age of six Bethany Watson was sure she wanted to be a nurse – but she always feared her stammer would get in the way. She worried about speaking on the telephone, particularly whether she would be able to speak clearly and quickly in an emergency, and whether she could talk confidently to colleagues and patients.

Now she has been a registered nurse for 1 month, working at Airedale Hospital in Yorkshire, and she attributes her success to determination, a positive attitude and a little help from the trust’s speech and language therapy team.

‘I’ve always wanted to be a nurse,’ says Ms Watson. ‘When I was five I went to the emergency department – I had run into a wall and had to have pebbledash removed from my forehead – and after that I was obsessed with nursing. I used to organise my dolls and tell them I was their nurse, and it stayed with me as I got older. 

‘But when I was 16 or 17 and applying to university, I worried that my stammer would be a barrier. I used to think about it all the time. I worried about responding in emergencies and speaking to doctors, and phone calls have always been a big thing for me.’

Ms Watson, who is from Sutton-in-Craven in Airedale, studied nursing at the University of Central Lancashire but has chosen to return home for her first post.


Ms Watson with Airedale Hospital speech and language therapist Stephanie Burgess.

She says she particularly appreciates the support she has received from Airedale Hospital speech and language therapist Stephanie Burgess, who suggested strategies to help with her stammer. 

‘I’ve accepted that my stammer will always be there, but the more I talk, the less I stammer,’ Ms Watson says. ‘I know now that it’s all about how I see it. Sometimes if I have a difficult patient, I’ll have to repeat things once or twice. But I know that if I stop, slow down and start again, I can do it.’

Ms Watson is loving her first job and says talking to patients is ‘the highlight of the shift’. ‘When I’ve finished the notes and all the other duties and have a bit of spare time, I’ll go and speak to patients. It’s the personal touch that I really enjoy.’

She has also found it useful to attend a group for women who stammer (stammering is four times more common in men). ‘Meeting other women in the same position has helped give me a different perspective,’ she adds.

Ms Watson hopes her career will take her back where she began, to the emergency department. ‘I had a placement in the emergency department and I loved it: it’s so fast-moving and there’s such a diverse group of patients. I’m enjoying the ward, but the emergency department is where I see myself in the future.’


Jennifer Trueland is a freelance health writer

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