Jenita Loheswaran, Nursing Associate

I began to see the difference my care was making; ‘I’m helping this person walk again – I’m helping this lady eat again.’ It was an indescribable feeling to have contributed to their recovery.

Jenita Loheswaran, BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science and Nursing Associate
Jenita Loheswaran
There were times during my course when I wondered what I’d let myself in for. I had three days of induction in the classroom and then went straight into practical training on the wards of a community hospital in Cornwall.

Making a difference

I’d done a BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science degree at Plymouth and was working in the offices of a student letting company, wondering what my next step should be. Plymouth’s Nursing Associate Higher Apprenticeship seemed the perfect way to get hands-on health care experience and develop professionally at the same time. I certainly didn’t imagine when I applied that I would fall in love with nursing. 
One of my early placements was on a stroke rehabilitation ward. I’d never met anyone who’d had a stroke until then. Some patients couldn’t even swallow. It was Autumn 2020 and the ward was locked down to visitors, so it was down to me and my colleagues to support them in every way.
As I got to know my patients over days and weeks, I began to see the difference my care was making; ‘I’m helping this person walk again – I’m helping this lady eat again.’ It was an indescribable feeling to have contributed to their recovery. I was starting to see the difference I could make as a nurse.

I was two months into my training on my second-ever night shift when I had my first death. I haven’t forgotten how it felt; I was terrified. But with the support of the senior nurses, I learned what to do and how to do it.

Jenita Loheswaran graduating
Jenita Loheswaran in a nursing training ward
Jenita Loheswaran in nursing training
When I got home the next morning, I thought about the difference I’d made to that man and his family. I’d been privileged to be one of the last people to care for him. It was another turning point for me, as I discovered I was capable of coping and doing a good job. I thought, “If I can do this after a few months, what difference will I be able to make in two years’ time?”

Improving diversity in health care

There have been plenty of challenges along the way. I moved to Cornwall for this adventure and, coming from London, was naïve about the cultural differences I’d encounter in the South West. In particular, I found people of different skin tones to be underrepresented among the nursing staff. But it was this that prompted me to get involved in the equality and diversity work at the University. 

I thought, ‘If I don’t do something about this, who will?’ As a young British Asian woman, I felt it was my duty to be a pioneer of diversity among my peers and colleagues.

We’ve already made some progress with the nursing curriculum; some of the new anatomy models in the medical school now have different skin tones. Changes like this are about making us better health care professionals. We’re taught in lectures about skin conditions, but the pictures usually show these symptoms on pale skin. I need to know what conditions like rashes would look like on my skin, so I can identify them correctly on all of my patients.
Jenita Loheswaran
Male and female nurses training on a medical manikin
Nurse with medical gloves on hands looking for equipment

The Nursing and Midwifery Council Code states that we must prioritise people, practise effectively, preserve safety and promote professionalism and trust – standards of practice I aim to upkeep. I hope that through my next 40 years of nursing, things will continue to change for the better.

Empowered to succeed

I was supported by the University through the Mel Joyner Award, which aims to lend a helping hand to students from underrepresented groups who are contributing to university life. Having worked with Mel throughout my first degree at the University of Plymouth from 2014–2017, I found that her support and encouragement knew no bounds. 
Receiving this award for my work with the equality, diversity and inclusion team was validation that I had worked to improve life at the University, much like Mel did. 

I feel empowered to continue with my work and hopefully inspire future generations of Nursing students in the South West and the rest of the country.

Excited for the future

Having just started my top-up course to complete the full nursing degree at the University of Plymouth, I’m excited to experience acute care and faster-paced wards, as I’ve been based in community settings for most of my training. I grew up watching Casualty – so I’d love to see what A&E life is like, even if it isn’t exactly like on TV! 
I’ve also been encouraged by the staff to think about a career in lecturing

I’d never considered teaching, but I’ve been so well supported by the staff here at Plymouth that it’s something I can envision myself doing. Perhaps, in years to come, I’ll be teaching on the very Plymouth programme I was trained on. It would be wonderful to come full circle!

Celebrating some of our amazing recent graduates

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