This page was last updated: April 14th, 2022
No, not at all. These days everything is very gender fluid, and actually I am proud to be a used as an example in training sessions about equality and inclusion etc. This hasn’t always been the case, however, especially given my age. My Dad chose my name. He’d first heard it when he was based in the USA in the Merchant Navy in the early 1960s. He didn’t realise it was a boy’s name – he just really liked it. My sister is called Stefena – another unusual one; it runs in our family!
It was my Dad’s suggestion to join the army but I had always wanted to be a nurse, from a very early age. So, it seemed a good idea to combine both. We’d just returned home to Cornwall from living in South Africa – I was 17 at the time – and after working in a doctors’ surgery for 6 months, I was offered a place on the Youth Opportunity Programme, stationed at the Freedom Fields Hospital in Plymouth, as it was then. I received the same military training as everyone else with nursing qualifications on top. I moved around between Aldershot, Woolwich and RAF Wroughton. Then I got married and became pregnant with my first child, which meant I was discharged from the army (as you were in those days), so I had to give up nursing. I spent the next 11 years travelling to different army bases with my husband and children – around the UK, Northern Ireland and Cyprus. When we all returned to Cornwall in 1994, I went back to nursing, initially in a local nursing home in Redruth and then at RCHT.
It was very hard, but really interesting. Seeing the after-effects of war is difficult to witness and process – both the physical injuries and mental anguish that follows active service. But the army teaches you resilience. Wounded soldiers from the Falklands were flown into RAF Wroughton and we would be there to assess them all as they arrived. Some of the physical injuries and burns were horrific. And some soldiers returning from Northern Ireland were on their knees crying – really distressed. They were so young, many of them. Of course, there wasn’t a name for PTSD back then but we knew their active service had been brutal – you could see the pain in their faces and they told us incredible stories. I’ve been involved with supporting veterans ever since.
I found that nursing in the army was quite different. Compared with civilian hospitals, it was very regimented in terms of discipline and procedure, and there was less paperwork. That suited me better. I did a computer course and made the switch in 2000. I did two years with Devon and Cornwall Police as a Domestic Violence Support Officer and then moved back into healthcare in 2002 as an admin clerk, then a booking clerk. I did that for nearly 18 years moving between services but mostly in clinical imaging; I enjoyed the interaction with patients. But last year, after some time off, I saw a job as a business administrator going in Strategic Estates. It looked interesting and I was ready for a change.
Every day is different. I know people say that a lot, but it really is. Projects can change on a six-pence. It also gives me a real sense of pride seeing projects through to the end. When Wheal Vor Ward opened, it was amazing. I am very proud to be a part of that building project. The variety of what we do as project assistants is amazing too.
I loved my army days. I enjoyed being an army wife – moving around, being posted abroad. It was a very supportive environment, like one big family. I made good friends that I am still in touch with today. But I never regretted leaving either. I’ve enjoyed my career and my family equally. My sister and I are very close geographically and emotionally, and I also have lots of grandchildren to dote over these days. I’ve already started knitting their scarves and hats for next winter. And as I get older, I am getting more active. I’ve realised it’s important to stay mobile, which is why I’ve just started the “Couch to 5K”. I do love a challenge!