Meet the inspirational NI mum who proves there are alternative routes to your dream career

Jessica Doak celebrates graduating with a BSc in Adult Nursing from Queen's University Belfast on Saturday
-Credit: (Image: Queen's University Belfast)

Jessica Doak left school at 16 with little to no qualifications and began working as a care assistant, which she found extremely rewarding, but her dream was always to become a nurse.

Jessica, from Armagh, was content in her job and as she had little qualifications, she thought her dream of becoming a nurse was out of reach.

That all changed when at 27 Jessica had her first daughter, who was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Her baby daughter gave Jessica the drive to return to further education when her daughter was just six months old.

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Jessica began an Adult Access Course in Southern Regional College (SRC), while also juggling a baby who had many appointments. Jessica thrived during her two years at SRC, and went on to have her second baby, coinciding with her finishing the course.

Speaking about her career plans on completion of her SRC course, Jessica said: “I had applied for Queen’s University but was prepared that I would not get a place, yet when my wee boy was only a number of weeks old I had three different offers from Queen’s. I could not believe I was going to get this opportunity, and this is how I then began my journey in Adult Nursing.”

Fast forward to today and Jessica graduated with an undergraduate degree in Adult Nursing from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s on Saturday.

Jessica and family celebrating her graduation from Queen's on Saturday
Jessica and family celebrating her graduation from Queen's on Saturday -Credit:Queen's University Belfast

The three years have not been easy for Jessica as she juggles her studying with family life as she explains: “It has been extremely challenging doing my nursing degree with two kids. I also had a third child just as my time at Queen’s was coming to an end, which delayed my finish date by another few months.

“With determination, I returned to finish my placement hours when my baby was seven weeks old, but unfortunately then my little girl ended up admitted to hospital in Belfast for a week, two weeks before placement came to an end.

"With resilience, and the wonderful support of my family and friends, I travelled from the Royal in Belfast to Craigavon and made sure I completed my placement hours in time for Graduation at the end of June.

“I want to let people know if you have a dream, never give up, no matter your age or situation, as there is always hope. I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have achieved what I have.”

After graduation Jessica is looking forward to enjoying maternity leave and the summer months with her three wonderful kids, before taking up a post in Craigavon Area Hospital.

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