More than a decade after beginning her nursing career in the NHS, Sarah Fairley is about to embark on a complete change in direction and become a legal eagle. Here she looks back over her time caring for patients and highlights what prompted her to swop her nurse’s uniform for a wig and gown.
I started working for NHS Forth Valley in 2008, joining the staff bank as an Auxiliary Nurse during my studies for the BSc in Adult Nursing, which I undertook at the University of Stirling. All of my placements were within NHS Forth Valley.
In 2010 when I graduated the only job I could get at the time was as a Band 5 staff nurse in an endocrinology ward within Hairmyres Hospital in Lanarkshire. However seven months later I took a huge gamble and applied for a six month temporary contract with the A&E department at the former Stirling Royal Infirmary, allowing me to come back to Forth Valley where I trained and lived.
I worked in A&E during the transition to the new Forth Valley Royal Hospital and, several temporary contracts later, I became a full-time member of staff in April 2013.
I loved every minute of A&E, working alongside such a fantastic team, the adrenaline rush of trauma cases, gaining invaluable life experience and being presented with opportunities which I wouldn’t have had if I had worked elsewhere.
In January 2015, I went back to work in NHS Lanarkshire after gaining promotion to a Band 6 Nurse Advisor, where I was responsible for training and promoting the health and safety of both staff and patients. This role also required me to gather evidence and investigate matters of personal injury/employment within the hospitals and report my findings to the Health and Safety Executive.
To be able to do this, however, I had to undertake further study, the NEBOSH in Occupational Health and Safety, which encompassed a lot of criminal and civil law, something I found thoroughly enjoyable. I had always been interested in the Scottish legal system, but this course really ignited my desire to go one step further and pursue it as a career. As a nurse, I have always been extremely passionate about helping people and becoming a solicitor would let me continue to do that, albeit from a different perspective.
In September 2017, during my LLB studies at the University of Strathclyde, I came back to NHS Forth Valley as a Band 5 Staff Nurse on the staff bank, predominately undertaking shifts back in the Emergency Department. I continued to work on this basis until I recently started my new job as a trainee solicitor with Levy & McRae Solicitors in Glasgow.
Although I initially had aspirations to specialise within medical/clinical negligence, my studies really opened me up to the possibility of practicing within a variety of areas I found enjoyable. Luckily, I managed to secure a traineeship which reflected that and will provide me with that opportunity.
Since commencing my nursing studies, I’ve had some unforgettable experiences for which I am extremely grateful and met lots of amazing people along the way, who I will really miss. Although I’m sad my journey with NHS Forth Valley is now over, I’m really looking forward to starting the next one in my life and seeing what the next decade will bring, which will hopefully be equally as memorable.