To mark National Dyslexic Week, which starts on Monday, October 3, Stephen Medcraft has spoken about how he overcame his learning difficulty to further his education, despite leaving school aged 15 with no qualifications.
Stephen struggled throughout his whole schooling career due to his dyslexia and he also had the added burden of having to take on caring responsibilities for his father, who was a drug addict and alcoholic.
Wanting to work within a career which he deemed meaningful, he joined St Andrew’s Healthcare as a healthcare assistant on a medium secure ward – a job which he enjoyed for many years.
But, he had always hoped to build on this career and eventually become a registered mental health nurse. Sadly, financial restraints and family responsibilities meant he had to delay his plans.
Stephen said: “I was keen to progress. I worked with nurses every day and I felt I had it in me to do the training. It was time for me to do something for me, but my main concern though was my family and paying the bills.”
However, his dream started to move into reality when he heard about the ASPIRE programme which St Andrew’s Healthcare provides for people, just like Stephen.
He said: “ASPIRE sounded ideal, as it meant I could study, while also earning, which is exactly what I needed. The programme enables healthcare assistants to combine their learning and experience and jump straight into the second year of the University of Northampton’s Mental Health Nursing degree and complete a nursing degree in two years.
“One of the main benefits of the programme was the financial support. Not having to worry about money allowed me to concentrate on my studies.”
Sadly, 20 years on his dyslexia still meant studying for Stephen was a struggle, but his tutor picked up on this and gave him added support.
He said, “Academically I have found it hard, especially with dyslexia and having left school so early. I sadly failed the first module which was hard and I came close to giving up, but when I was given the added support I found things much easier.”
The Covid-19 pandemic also brought with it more challenges for Stephen who was forced to spend spent a large part of time having to work remotely which was very tough.
Stephen added: “I’m not academic and I found the studying part of the course very hard, but I persevered, and I’ve proved to myself and those around me that what I can do if I put my mind to it. I’m so relieved all my hard work has paid off and I am now a qualified mental health nurse.
“The course was very intense, with a lot of work to fit in, placements and exams – so time management was crucial. But, for those like me that perhaps didn’t do so well at school it offers an alternative route into becoming a mental health nurse.
“I’ve gained such a lot of knowledge and been able to use my previous experience too. The financial support is a huge benefit, and the fact you have a guaranteed job at St Andrew’s after you’ve finished takes the pressure off.”
Stephen has been offered a job as a mental health nurse on a new acute award for men at St Andrew’s Healthcare, which opens in October.
Emma Swain, programme lead and senior lecturer at St Andrew’s Healthcare said, “I’m proud of what Stephen has achieved and I hope he inspires other people to come forward into education in the future. What makes this even more impressive is that Stephen is dyslexic and at times didn’t have faith he could go all the way but his resilience, hard work and the right attitude has got him to the finish line.”