Patricia Selway

Ashford and Folkestone nurse Patricia Selway is proving age is no barrier to a fulfilling nursing career.

Patricia was not expected to survive to see childhood.

And when she was 16, she was diagnosed with rare chromosome disorder Turner Syndrome, and warned she might not live past 40.

At 50, she was diagnosed with cancer – and not only survived, but used it as an opportunity to re-evaluate her life and retrain as a nurse.

Now 62 she has no plans to retire and is relishing being able to make a difference to patients across East Kent Hospitals.

She said: “I have been given an opportunity to be a blessing. That’s how I think of it.

“I think all the dire predictions appealed to the stubborn nature in me. I love being a mature nurse and I love learning.”

Seven step-children, 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren

Patricia, who with husband Chris has seven step-children, 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, decided on nursing after a friend pointed out it would suit her personality.

She said: “I wasn’t happy where I was working, and Chris worked out the finances and said we could afford for me to have a month off to make a plan, and to cover me if I wanted to retrain.

“I considered being a writer, or doing something like reflexology, but a friend described me as loving and caring and to me that sounded like a nurse.

“I was treated amazingly well throughout my cancer, by everyone from the CT and ultrasound staff to the nurses, physios and dieticians, so it appealed to me as a career.” 

University at 55  

Patricia initially started working as a care assistant in a care home, after recovering from surgery to remove a tumour from her bowel.

She then started her nursing degree at Canterbury Christ Church University at the age of 55, and qualified aged 58.

She said: “I did call the Nursing and Midwifery Council when I was thinking about it, and said ‘I’m 55 – am I too old?’

“But they said absolutely not, and reminded me that I have a lot of life experience that would help make me a better nurse.

Homesick and missing their mums

“I didn’t get to go to university when I was 18 so I was really excited about it. I did expect to be made fun of by the others on the course as I was easily the oldest one there, but they saw me as a maternal figure and would come to me if they were homesick and missing their mums.”

Her first hospital placement as a student nurse was on the colorectal ward, where she met a patient who was due to have the same procedure Patricia had undergone.


She said: “She was quite tearful and I was able to sit with her and reassure her and explain that I had been through it and come out the other side and she could too.

“I’ve also sat in as a chaperone in some outpatient clinics where people are told they have bowel cancer and I’d be happy to share my experiences if it would help ease their fears.”

Patricia now works in outpatients at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and Royal Victoria Hospital in Folkestone, and hopes to stay in her role until she is 70. After that, she plans to work as a healthcare assistant with the Trust or in a care home.

She said: “I have worked with some HCAs in their 70s who have more energy than people in their 30s!

“It might take me longer to learn things sometimes, but there are so many benefits to being an older nurse.

“I have much better communication skills now than I did when I was 18 or 19, and I understand a lot of people’s fears and can make time to listen.

“I’m happy being able to help people and I hope to continue for as long as I possibly can.”

By Ed

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