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Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust

NGH Skin Cancer Specialist Hayley wins hero award from University of Northampton

Hayley Masters 1

Hayley works in the Dermatology department at NGH

An inspirational nurse has won a Hero Award from the University of Northampton for her work-life journey at Northampton General Hospital.

Hayley Masters, aged 50 from Northampton, joined Northampton General Hospital for the first time 24 years ago to start in her new role as a hospital cleaner. Fast forward to 2023 and she’s now a skin cancer specialist who has just graduated, with honours, with a BSC in Enhancing Healthcare Practice at the University of Northampton.

As well as this she has also won an award from the University Ceremonies team for ‘being an inspiration to all of those who know her. As well as this she was also praised for the huge sacrifices, she had to make to enable her to support challenging personal circumstances, whilst studying, working and facing the challenges that mature students with families face.’

During her degree and career Hayley has been strongly supported by her family; husband Paul, who also works for the NHS in Sterile Services, two daughters and two grandchildren. Throughout her studies she faced numerous personal challenges of caring for her mother-in-law who has dementia, moving house urgently within 7 days, being left without internet for 3 months, and her own personal health issues.

She juggled all of this whilst studying for her degree and working full time at NGH, however she was determined to complete her education journey so her family could celebrate with her.

She said: “I started 24 years ago in the NHS as a cleaner at NGH. Back then it was a very different role and we all worked in different areas of the hospital. As part of the role, we carried bleeps and collected bloods for transfusions, so it was vastly different to the role today.”

Hayley has always had an interest in caring for people, whether it’s looking after family or patients in the hospital. After a while in the cleaning role, Hayley became friends with one of the Health Care Assistants (HCA) and from there, she was encouraged to apply for a HCA Specials role in Trauma and Orthopaedics.

A HCA special role was someone who took a special interest in conditions and injuries such as dementia care or head injuries. This role eventually changed, and Hayley became a HCA on the Trauma and Orthopaedics ward before moving to Manfield Theatres.

She said: “The Sister on the ward encouraged me to go for my nursing degree. I’d left school early without any qualifications so I was supported by NGH to do my Maths and English qualifications so I could apply for the Open University course to gain a nursing diploma.

“I never thought I could go to a university, ever, after finishing school early with no qualifications. Even getting maths and English was an achievement.

“I’m not a very academic person, I never have been, and to be a hands-on nurse you need to have a personal approach to care. But when you’re giving any kind of care you need the knowledge and background behind you to support.

After four years of studying Hayley qualified as a nurse on the Trauma and Orthopaedics ward. Following working on the ward a job became available in Dermatology and with home pressures with childcare and caring for family this role provided stability and a new challenge.

She said: “I worked in Dermatology for six years and then a role became available for a Clinical Nurse Specialist, specialising in skin cancer, so I interviewed for it and was successful and now I’ve now been in that role for two years.

“I find it a really emotional job at times but it’s so rewarding too. I love providing patients with a standard of care that I would want to receive. You have to have a lot of understanding about the person. That’s my main aim and always has been throughout my career, no matter which role I’ve been in”.

After progressing into Dermatology Hayley made the decision to complete a top-up degree which would give her a BSC honours degree in Enhancing Healthcare Practice.

She said: “I’m so proud to have done my degree. I could fit my modules around my interest in skin cancer and I was able to do my dissertation on how we support patients and families with a skin cancer diagnosis.

“I felt really embarrassed to get the hero award, I don’t think I’m a hero at all. I was determined to do this and graduate in May because of my mother-in-law and family.

“She was a huge inspiration to me and supported me with looking after my children when I did the OU course, and she has always backed me 100%.  I wanted to do this for her, and it felt so special she could watch the graduation with my daughter in the nursing home.”

Hayley is someone who always looks for the next opportunity and encourages anyone to take on challenges and opportunities.

“My advice to anyone thinking about taking on a new role or studying is to take opportunities when they arise and if people see potential in you then they will help you.

“Barriers to me are nothing, if you want to learn anything in life it doesn’t matter where you start from. You can start from the bottom; it doesn’t matter about your upbringing or where you’re from you can still achieve”.

Posted on Tuesday 13th June 2023
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