A former hospital cook is now looking after more than just her patients’ appetites after qualifying as a nurse in time to join the fight against the pandemic.

Mum of three Claire Davies, from Denbigh, is now kitted out in full protective clothing on the front line at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, after a three-year part-time course run by Bangor University’s School of Nursing.

She was part of the first group to take the course aimed at support workers already working in the NHS in North Wales and she is now encouraging others interested in following in her footsteps.

They can attend virtual a open day organised by Bangor University on July 10 when anyone interested in the University’s range of nursing and other courses can chat to staff and students, watch videos and presentations and take 360-degree tours of the campus and accommodation.

Claire, 42, began as a cook in her home town at the Denbigh Infirmary when an opportunity as a health care support worker came up and she said: “I’d always thought I’d like to do this and I got the job and just fell in love with it.

“I always wanted to learn about what we were doing and how it benefited the patient.”

But with three children to bring up it was only when the part-time course was introduced by the University three years ago that with a helpful nudge from her ward manager she signed up.

Claire added: “It’s all about doing the best you can for the patients when they’re poorly.  It’s an honour to be able to help them – it can be tough but you get the rewards.

“I couldn’t have afforded to become a nurse until the part-time course came up, not with three children, but this way I still had my wages.

“It wasn’t easy because I had a bit of a struggle with the academic side of things so I really had to work hard but it’s been worth it.”

Course Lead Gill Truscott, recently awarded Teacher of the Year in the Bangor University Student-Led Awards, said: “I was employed to launch this programme and it’s been an absolute privilege and I can’t say enough how much I admire the tenacity and dedication of the students.

“Claire was part of the trailblazing first group who studied throughout the Covid pandemic, but everyone persevered and did tremendously well – I am in awe of every students’ commitment and dedication and so proud of each one of them.

“We could see Claire’s potential to become a registered nurse when she came for interview and like all the support workers who undertake the programme she brought  with her a wealth of diverse clinical knowledge and experiences which we can develop during their studies to become qualified nurses.

“Part of the success of the programme is the collaborative working with Bangor University, Coleg Llandrillo and the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board which facilitates the success of the course and the ability to proactively support students throughout.

“It was such an honour to win the teaching award but it’s not so much the winning but the fact that the students took the time out to nominate me and think about me and that really is the most touching and humbling tribute for me.”

Soon after qualifying in December the second wave of the pandemic hit and Claire and her colleagues have spent much of the time since in full PPE for four hours at a time.

She said: “We knew what we were getting into. I’ve worked for the Trust for a long time and now we’re building on the knowledge we’ve got.

“One of the consultants said we’d have all the knowledge we were bringing to the role because of experience we already had.

“But I didn’t realise when I started that I’s be qualifying in the middle of a pandemic but I just love the job.

“Not a day goes by when I wish I wasn’t going to work because I want to be the person who can help make a patient’s journey a bit better.”

Claire is being followed into the NHS by her eldest daughter, now 24, who is in her first year of training to be a midwife and she said: “She’s loving it as well. It’s a fantastic career to go into.”

For more on Bangor University go to https://www.bangor.ac.uk/