JACKIE Skull had been out of nursing for 15 years when she took the decision to return to a career she loves.

“I was working at a local supermarket,” she said, “and one day I realised this is not what I want to do, I wanted to go back into nursing. It’s one of the things I have always done and it’s what I was born to do.

"I love the job – looking after and meeting so many different people.”

Because Jackie had been out of nursing for so long, she decided to spend a year working as a nursing assistant at Salisbury District Hospital.

“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever taken,” she said. “It helped me realise that I can do this again. Having been out of it for 15 years, there can be doubt in your mind. I was very fortunate because I was working at the hospital when it started running its Return to Practice programme again.

"There is a huge government drive to encourage former nurses back into practice.”

The course, linked with Bournemouth University, was from September to January and included six days at university and 150 clinical hours.

“My specialism has always been orthopaedic and surgery so they put me on a medical ward to take me out of my comfort zone, which can be quite daunting but it was absolutely brilliant,” Jackie said.

In addition to completing the necessary clinical hours, Jackie had to do a 2,500-word academic essay and a clinical profile which included medicine administration.

“It was most definitely one of the most stressful things I had done for quite a while,” she said. “The actual placements were tiring because I already worked full-time at the hospital, and I was doing my placement hours on top, but the support I had was amazing. It makes you hungry for success again.”

Jackie started her nursing career at St George’s Hospital, London, in 1984, undertaking a two-year course to become an enrolled nurse and practising there until 1986 when she moved to Thornton Heath.

Due to the phasing out of enrolled nurses, she did a one-year conversion course to become what is now known as a registered nurse. She said: “I practised until 2000 and then left nursing because I had my daughter and I became quite disillusioned with nursing.

It didn’t offer the hours to a young mother with a family to look after and there wasn’t the support in place.”

Jackie’s daughter is now 17 and will soon be following in her mother’s footsteps, having secured a place to study adult nursing. “I don’t think nursing care will ever change, it can’t.” Jackie says.

“It’s how it’s always been but the accountability and the paperwork have changed immensely. Everything is now computerised.”

Jackie has been offered a position as staff nurse on Amesbury ward and is now waiting for her exam results.