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Blog: My father’s death inspired me to become a nurse

When her father passed away from acute myeloid leukaemia, Karen McGuigan decided to make a drastic change in her life and fulfil her lifelong ambition to become a nurse. 
Challenging Career Path

When her father passed away from acute myeloid leukaemia, Karen McGuigan decided to make a drastic change in her life and fulfil her lifelong ambition to become a nurse

I am 28 year-old nursing student in my second year of training. Two years ago, I watched my father pass away from Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.

This was the most difficult experience of my life. During the time my father was unwell I was both privileged and sad to witness some of the best and some of the worst care. This inspired me to make a drastic change in my life and follow my desire to become a nurse. I wanted to help others, and to prevent them from feeling how my father did.

The decision to retrain was an easy one as nursing was something I had always wanted to do. Now

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When her father passed away from acute myeloid leukaemia, Karen McGuigan decided to make a drastic change in her life and fulfil her lifelong ambition to become a nurse 

I am 28 year-old nursing student in my second year of training. Two years ago, I watched my father pass away from Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. 

This was the most difficult experience of my life. During the time my father was unwell I was both privileged and sad to witness some of the best and some of the worst care. This inspired me to make a drastic change in my life and follow my desire to become a nurse. I wanted to help others, and to prevent them from feeling how my father did. 


Picture: iStock

The decision to retrain was an easy one as nursing was something I had always wanted to do. Now I had the courage to do it, but after working full time in a supermarket for five years, it was a huge change. I had to get used to the change in pace, drop in finances and return to full time education, whilst also dealing with my bereavement. 

I had done my research about which institution to study at, purchased my books and pens, and dropped down to part-time hours at the supermarket. But I was still unprepared for what I was getting myself in to. As an adult living alone, and in a long distance relationship, the first few months of university were difficult. 

The pressure was immense. As well as the academic stress, there were the financial issues – the bursary only goes so far with student finance to cushion the blow, and I still had to work 16 hours a week to support myself. 

However, this helped me to develop my organisational and time management skills, and I learned to enjoy my time when not at university, studying or at work. It also gave new meaning to spending quality time with my partner; during my first clinical placement, the 100-mile distance meant I only saw my partner for 18 hours in six weeks. 

I remember crying at the end of one of my shifts because I burned the toast I was making for my supper. This was when I realised how drastically my life had changed, but the sense of job satisfaction I feel at the end of a long shift is like nothing I have experienced before. I have never felt as happy, sad, privileged, emotional or exhausted. 

Feeling that I have given everything I possibly can to my patients at the end of every shift makes the hard work, budgeting and sacrifices in my personal life worth it.

My journey to becoming a nurse is turning out to be one of the most difficult challenges I have faced in my adult life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 


About the author

Karen McGuigan is a second-year nursing student in Manchester 

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