A former prison officer and bank worker whose eyes were opened to the possibilities of a career in nursing by her own serious illness has graduated from Edinburgh Napier University.
Ellie Lamb was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer five years ago while working at HMP Addiewell in West Lothian.
Following surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she struggled to keep up with the demands of the prison job, and decided to retrain as a nurse – partly motivated by the quality of care she had herself received in hospital.
Ellie completed a distance learning Higher in human biology to add to her earlier HND in psychology and criminology, and, armed with these qualifications, she was accepted at Edinburgh Napier in 2017.
However, her path to a Bachelor of Nursing degree in adult nursing, which she successfully completed this week, has been far from plain sailing.
Last year she was re-diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, leading to more chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but she refused to abandon her summer placement with a West Lothian district nursing team.
Mother-of-three Ellie, 49, of Armadale, said: “Apart from the time off to have my treatment I never missed a day, and I also developed a love for wound management.
“By the end of my placement I was given a run of my own, attending patients with minor injuries.
“I often thought about giving up – it was hard, with the treatment, my placement, and my family and study commitments.
“I was exhausted and in so much pain but my love of nursing and my desire to carry on and get my degree drove me on.”
This year’s Covid-19 pandemic brought fresh concerns. As a shielded patient, Ellie had to seek special permission to complete a ‘low-risk’ community hospital placement to remain on target to graduate.
Now she has been rewarded for her outstanding courage and perseverance with both a degree and a permanent job as a staff nurse at Tippethill House Hospital in Armadale.
Ellie said: “I chose to be a nurse, and that was a commitment to care for people who needed it regardless of the risk to myself.
“My new job at Tippethill offers everything I enjoy – care of the elderly, wound management and also end-of-life care which I am really enthusiastic about.
“I’m not sure what the future holds for me. I will fight and work for as long as I can, doing a job I love.
“It’s just a shame that it took my own illness to open my eyes to nursing. I wish I had done it years ago.”
Emma Trotter, Edinburgh Napier’s field lead in adult nursing, said: “I have personally and professionally been moved and inspired over the last three years by Ellie Lamb, not only as a brilliant student nurse but as a role model for the nursing profession.
“Ellie’s determination, enthusiasm, energy and hard work to achieve her goal to be a trained nurse while facing her own health concerns were all an example of her passion to make a difference to the lives of the people she cares for.
“Her story has touched all our hearts within the BN programme, both staff and students, and we would like to take this opportunity to wish her the very best for her future career as a staff nurse.”