Marie's story

Marie left school with few qualifications and initially found work in a factory before turning her hand to hairdressing. She also volunteered her time working with people with learning disabilities.

“I’ve always been a people-person,” says Marie “when I was hairdressing people would confide in me and bare their souls, but I enjoyed being there for them.”

Marie became bored of hairdressing and looked for a career where she was helping people and giving something back to her community.

“I spoke to some nurses working with people with learning disabilities,” remembers Marie “and I knew straight away that this is what I should be doing. And honestly, I never had one day as a nurse when I wished it was time to go home. I’ve just loved it!”

Marie qualified as a learning disability nurse in 1980, initially working in an inpatient service with people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. She found she had a flare for supporting other nursing staff so she worked with the student nurses and focused on staff development.

“I was keen to get nursing staff to think about supporting people with learning disabilities so they could live as independently as possible. This was my first taste of tutoring.”

Her role gradually changed and Marie became a part-time lecturer as well as still practicing as a nurse. As Marie became more and more interested in education, she decided to study for her degree and then her Master’s.

“It was an incredibly busy but rewarding time for me and I also got an insight into dementia care when my mam became ill. So I became her carer with the help of my family too.”

Marie’s dedication to learning disability nursing has lasted 40 years and she’s seen a lot of changes along the way,

“A big part of caring for people with learning disabilities was supporting the families too,” says Marie “Some of them are as vulnerable as the people we were caring for. Decades ago, families were encouraged to put their loved ones in inpatient services and so it was harrowing for these families at times.”

Marie became a full time nursing lecturer and also completed her doctorate on the role of care within families of people with learning disabilities. The young woman who left school with few qualifications decades ago ended up with a very full education and a long career.

She lectured for 21 years and has just retired from this role. Her colleague and fellow senior lecturer Pamela Wheeler nominated Marie for a Cavell Star Award for going above and beyond for her colleagues and students. Pamela explains her nomination,

“Marie has been a fabulous inspiration and role model for many nurses, with her amazing humility and commitment to the best quality of care for families and people with a learning disability. She has advocated on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in our society and has done so with great empathy and challenged us to all do the best that we possibly can.”

Marie reacted to winning her Cavell Star Award,

“I don’t think that I’m anything special, I just come to work and do what I believe is the right thing! It’s such a lovely feeling to be recognised like this. I must have done something right in my life. I feel over the moon, chuffed to bits!

“My nursing team are like a family, a work family. We’ve supported each other through thick and thin and there was always a reservoir of kindness and good will there. That’s what made the team work so well. My nursing team have been a huge part of my life.”

Read more about Marie,

"Celebrating nursing brilliance" Teesside University website

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